Satellite fright


A relative of a Chinese passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight reacts after Malaysian Prime Minister Razak said a new analysis of satellite data showed the plane had ended its journey in remote seas south-west of Australia in Beijing, March 25.

ASHLEY FISHER | Evergreen columnist

Almost a month has passed since Malaysia Flight 370 went missing and there are still no answers to the public’s questions concerning how, where or why.

A number of countries with missing citizens have become involved in ongoing multi-national efforts to find the plane. Seeing as more than two-thirds of the passengers on board the missing plane are Chinese citizens, China has been closely involved in the ongoing efforts to trace the aircraft, according to an article by Malaysia Chronicle.  

Due to increased frustration about the fruitless search, China is considering taking preventive measures in order to ensure an incident like this never happens again. China’s plan is to cover the entire world with a network of surveillance satellites. If the plan were to be implemented, 50 observation satellites would be deployed into orbit within the next two years, according to an article by The Telegraph.

While it’s true that employing a global surveillance system would advance future search efforts, the missing flight appears to be the perfect pretext for China to further its agenda of expanding monitoring capabilities to global coverage.

Despite suspicions of China’s covert agenda, the project to build a global satellite-surveillance network has garnered substantial support. Professor Chi Tianhe, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, argued, “If we had a global monitoring network today, we wouldn’t be searching in the dark. We would have a much greater chance to find the plane and trace it to its final position,” according to an article by RT. 

No one can deny adding satellites would improve observational coverage. Yet it’s also difficult to deny that China has been looking for a reason to expand its global monitoring network for quite some time, and Malaysia Flight 370 is the perfect excuse.

In reality, it is quite understandable that China would want to increase its number of satellites. Currently, the United States is the undisputed leader for the number of satellites in orbit, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Although many of the United States’ satellites are designed for commercial purposes, a number of other satellites include military applications. From a purely tactical viewpoint, this vexes China’s leaders.

The ongoing hunt for Malaysia Flight 370 allows China to appear rational in its desire to employ dozens of satellites in the near future. It also shrouds the fact that developing such a system would give China the ability to establish its own military satellite presence.

China is purposely avoiding drawing international attention by launching dozens of spy satellites under the justification of Malaysia Flight 370. Instead of hiding its true agenda, China should be transparent about its plans to increase its satellite surveillance systems – something that would significantly change the landscape of the sky.

Unfortunately, China learned a great deal from watching post 9/11 America unfold, and has realized sometimes you must exploit tragedy in order to get what you want. 

-Ashley Lynn Fisher is a junior English major from Gig Harbor. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.