But there is an important difference. The world
is no longer in a militarized space race and China's
success with the orbit of taikonaut Yang
Liwei in the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft does not
affect the military balance of power.
China has launched and retrieved space capsules
and satellites of similar size and complexity
to the Shenzhou 5 for many years.
In fact, Chinese companies have close to 10%
of the lucrative global market for launching commercial
Since sending its first satellite into orbit
in 1970, China now ranks fourth in successful
space launches after the European Space Agency,
USA, and Soviet Union/Russia.
If anything, the decision to pursue manned space
exploration should be applauded as a welcome direction
for the Chinese space program.
Yet war hawks in the USA are already talking
up China as a new threat in space, saying that
China's manned space program is a cloak for espionage
and a challenge to the USA.
This message is spread with depressing predictability
by the usual mouthpieces: "Pentagon reporter"
Bill Gertz in Reverend Sun Myong Moon's Washington
Times, the editorial pages of The
Economist magazine, the New
York Times, etc., conservative policy groups,
and henchmen of President Bush's Secretary of
Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
The announcement that China put a man in space
prompted the deputy commander of NORTHCOM,
Lt. General Edward Anderson, to proclaim that
"it will not be long before space becomes a battleground."
NORTHCOM (or NORCOM) is the Northern
Command, a little-known USA military command,
created in 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld. Its ominous
sounding focus is to defend the USA and support
"the full range of military assistance to civil
Deputy Anderson's comments were made at a conference
intelligence" in New Orleans. There he told
a symposium crowd how important American space
technology is to the military's missions and remarked
"[t]hey can see that one of the ways that they
can certainly diminish our capabilities will be
to attack the space systems." "Now how they do
that and who that's going to be," he said, "I
can't tell you in this audience."
At the same conference Donald Rumsfeld's former
special assistant for intelligence, Rich Haver,
now vice president for intelligence strategy with
defense contractor Northrup
Grumman Mission Systems, said "I believe space
is the place we will fight in the next 20 years."
The day after Yang Liwei's successful orbit,
Bates Gill, Freeman
Chair in China Studies at the Center For Strategic
and International Studies (a powerful conservative
think tank that directly influences American government)
warned at a CSIS confab that the Chinese space
program is used to underwrite military spending.
But linking space and military programs is long
the case in the USA and the Soviet Union/Russia.
Once the USA succeeded in putting a man on the
moon it spent far more on military space systems
than nonmilitary. By 1990 the USA spent twice
as much on military space vehicles than on nonmilitary
systems. That trend has continued.
In Russia, the space program routinely develops
secret military applications, such as next-generation
reconnaissance satellites, that build upon the
success of civilian space enterprises that deliver
American astronauts and space tourists to the
International Space Station.
In both countries the space technology standards
(GPS in America and GLONASS in Russia) which are
used for all commercial applications are completely
controlled by the military.
Fact is, all three countries share
the same heritage for their space programs
the rocket technologies developed by Nazi
Germanyand all three use their space programs
for military purposes.
But China is not actively seeking to achieve
military superiority in space. Since 2000 China's
space agencies have sought to become part of the
Space Station (ISS) but are kept out by the
One of the key participants in the ISS, the European
Space Agency (ESA), extended "warmest congratulations
to the People's Republic of China on this outstanding
achievement" in a statement
from ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing
a technology standard (GSM) that will be civilian
controlled. China and the ESA are currently finalizing
a five-year agreement for cooperation.
The USA ban on Chinese participation in the ISS
is overtly political. The reasons for the ban
are a disparate and outdated list of complaints
about China ranging from "human rights"
and Tibet to industrial espionage.
Much of the political will behind the ban is
from one politician, Representative Dana
Rohrabacher (R) of California, an anti-China
hawk who co-founded the Taiwan
Congressional Caucus which is heavily influenced
by a pro-independence Taiwan
The future of the ISS is currently in doubt.
Long before the collapse of the American space
shuttle program the ISS was far behind construction
and billions over budget.
The only method currently of supplying the space
station with materials—and crew—is via Russia’s
space program. That is a tenuous lifeline at best.
A launch scheduled for next month was canceled
due to lack of funds.
Chinese spacecraft are compatible with ISS modules.
This presents a real opportunity for Chinese participation
for supply missions at a minimum.
If the USA is seriously concerned about China’s
ambitions in space instead of treating the Chinese
as space invaders it should welcome them into
the International Space Station and encourage
China to realize the loftiest ideals of human
©2003-2005 Ben Calmes for Sinomania!