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China aims to complete its own GPS system, giving Beijing military independence in case of conflict

China is gearing up to send the last satellite to space, a move that will complete a global navigation network and wean the country off U.S. technology in this area.

It’s a significant development because it will ensure China’s military systems will remain online in the event of a conflict with the U.S., but it’s also part of Beijing’s push to increase its technological influence overseas, experts told CNBC.

China’s network, known as Beidou, consists of 30 satellites which are key for navigation or even messaging. It’s a rival to the U.S. government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS). 

“The (Chinese) military now has a system it can use independent of the U.S. GPS system,” Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, told CNBC.

The fear is that if there was a sustained conflict between the U.S. and China, GPS — or the satellite-based navigation system — could be cut off from the Chinese. 

“The most profound impact is that it is now independent. It (China) has now got a system that is resilient and can be used in times of conflict,” Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University in the U.K., told CNBC. 

China was set to launch the last satellite this week but it was postponed because of “technical issues,” according to Beidou’s official website.

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