What happened: Beidou, China’s answer to America’s Global Positioning System (GPS), has launched its global services ahead of schedule. The previous rollout target was 2020. The service offers worldwide location services with an accuracy of 5 meters within the Asia-Pacific region and 10 meters in other areas. The system is one of four global navigation satellite systems, joining America’s GPS, Russia’s Glonass, and Europe’s Galileo.
Why it’s important: The move is part of a wider Chinese effort to become a world leader in space and related technologies as part of its “Made in China 2025” initiative. While GPS is accurate to within a few centimeters, there are concerns that the US could shut off service during wartime. China has already shipped more than 70 million Beidou systems to over 90 countries. Most smartphones being sold in the country, including Huawei and Xiami, as well as 2 million vehicles, are compatible with the system.