At launch, one of the newest satellites was thought to be equipped with a robotic arm manipulator (although, at the time, space analysts did not know which one) and at the time the Chinese language press specifically mentioned "space debris observation," "mechanical arm operations" and the testing of "space maintenance technologies," according to Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst and China project manager within the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program.
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At face value, this could indicate that China is working on peaceful space debris mitigation technologies. Perhaps the odd maneuvers of Shiyan-7 reveal the development of techniques of orbital debris retrieval? Worryingly, there's also a flip side to this coin.
"Since space systems are largely dual use, it should not be surprising that there would be interest in the ability to maneuver satellites in close proximity ... but neither should there be blithe assumptions that this is necessarily for solely peaceful ends," Dean Cheng, a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., told SPACE.com.