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China Shows its Muscles in Space


Written by Luca

Submersed in a financial crisis of gargantuan proportion, the international community overlooked China’s abrupt entrance in the space race with the first Chinese spacewalk, a significant geopolitical event.  China set its sight on conquering space nearly two decades ago with the creation of Project 921, whose main purpose was to augment China’s scientific and technological capability.  While the United States has reduced its emphasis on space exploration due to the popular discontent at the excessive cost of the space program, China has plowed ahead on its quest to send manned spacecraft out of earth’s orbit.  Chinese leaders consider the space program as a great tool to raise nationalistic sentiments among its people, who are disgruntled with the current state of affairs within China.

Shenzhou VII

The successful voyage of Shenzhou VII into space brings much promise to China

Shenzhou VII touched down in China’s Inner Mongolia at 5:37 p.m. local time on Sunday according to plan after a 68 hour long mission.  During the voyage into space, taikonaut Zhai Zhigang successfully went on a spacewalk, lasting a total of 13 minutes.  But once back on earth, Zhai Zhigang and his fellow taikonauts waited 46 minutes in the cramped capsule in order to re-adapt to earth’s gravity. The successful voyage of Shenzhou VII into space brings much promise to China, because it remains on schedule to fulfill its original objective of launching a manned mission to moon by 2020.  The Shenzhou VII mission’s primary objective was to send a manned spacecraft into space as a test for future missions, which include the building of a Chinese space station and the launching of a manned mission to moon.  China’s space program owes its success and sustenance to China’s own staggering economic strength.

Economic Growth

For the past twenty years, China’s Communist Party has set economic growth as its top priority, viewing it as the key to increased global influence.  China’s sustained economic growth, however, poses several problems to China and the rest of the world as well.   While cities along China’s eastern seaboard are experiencing a rising standard of living, rural villages in China’s interior are struggling.  Access to health facilities also remains a problem in China, as people in rural areas do not have access to adequate health facilities, which leads to the spread of infectious diseases.  In addition to the social problems caused by excessive economic growth, pollution remains the gravest concern.  Pollution from factories, barely regulated by Beijing, destroys the source of subsistence for millions of Chinese, by contaminating the water essential to farming.  China’s reliance on coal poses serious problems to the environment, as it produces more pollution than oil, because it combusts less efficiently.  Despite the negative effects of economic growth, China continues its policy of economic expansion, because it sees in it the key to unlocking greater global authority.

The vast amount of foreign exchange reserves China currently holds brings considerable power

As of the beginning of 2008, China holds $1.7 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, according to the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The vast amount of foreign exchange reserves China currently holds brings considerable power, because China can use the reserves to buy valuable assets, invest in infrastructure, arm its military, or fund its space program.  With $1.7 trillion in its bank account, China views an investment of $2.2 billion in a space program as a trivial expenditure.

China’s Economic Power

The facility with which China can disburse $2.2 billion for a space program is alarming.  If China is willing to pay such a significant sum for a peaceful endeavor, imagine what the country would be willing to pay for a belligerent cause.  The success of China’s space program requires an immediate reevaluation of China’s role on the world stage, because talks of China’s possible role in the future are no longer pertinent, as China is already a relevant player in current affairs.  Instead of resisting China’s rise as a major power, other nations should work in synergy with Beijing to develop coherent policies.  Cooperation between China and other countries is necessary to confront important issues such as environmental protection.

Cooperation with China

With its advanced knowledge in energy efficiency, Europe could cooperate with China to modernize its outdated energy policy.  The first step China should take to improve energy efficiency would be to increase energy prices to reflect its actual cost.  Presently, Chinese consumers pay discounted energy, since China heavily subsidizes the energy industry.  By simply raising the price of energy, the Chinese government would create an incentive for consumers to consume energy more efficiently and to buy more efficient appliances.

China’s manned mission into space is not only a momentous moment in Chinese history, but also a metaphor for China’s rise to power among other global giants.  The Chinese space program evidences China’s superior economic capabilities, which will influence future geopolitical events.  The world needs to accept China’s ascension as a nascent power, and welcome China as a new partner on global issues.


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