• The Financial District


China launched the last satellite in its Beidou navigation network on Tuesday, completing a new rival to GPS and cementing its place in an elite group of countries with their own global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), Ben Westcott reported for CNN Business on June 24, 2020.

To date, there are only four major GNSS networks: GPS (US); GLONASS (Russia); Galileo (European Union), and; Beidou. India and Japan operate smaller systems. Most people are familiar with GPS, which is used for everything from personal navigation on your smartphone to tracking planes and container ships around the world.

Beidou is China's alternative system. It's named after the Chinese word for the Big Dipper constellation, and has taken almost two decades to complete. In a commentary published Tuesday in the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the Beidou navigation network was described as belonging "to the whole world and all mankind."

There are hopes in China that Beidou could be a global competitor to GPS, but the US option still has "absolute market share," said Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert who has worked with China's Ministry of Civil Affairs and National Development and Reform Commission. Experts said that China's push for a new navigation network was also driven by a desire to reduce its dependence on America's GPS, particularly in its armed forces. There are few other advantages to a country having its own GNSS network than prestige, according to Andrew Dempster, director at the Australian Center for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at the University of New South Wales. "To be honest with Beidou there's nothing unique about it," Dempster said. "It is simply this prestige thing that the Chinese want to say they've got it. It's the same thing as going to the moon, planting a flag for the sake of it," Dempster said.