Sunday, October 23, 2005

China's New Space Age And Same Old Politics.

China's two straight successful manned orbital missions are establishing it as a space power to be reckoned with. Moreover, the program is likely to ignite an economic boom in its aerospace industry.
"China's manned space program is solely dependent on its own technology, involving hundreds of up and down-stream enterprises and research institutions and thousands of cooperative working units in the country, Vice Minister Ma Songde of Science and Technology was quoted by the Economic Information Daily newspaper as saying."
(See story here) Leaving aside whether borrowing from Soyuz is consistent with being "solely dependent on its own technology," China's determination to rely on its own industry to develop its space program is bound to continue that country's economic growth. From all appearances China is here to stay in space.

In the political sphere, however, China is not moving forward into the 21st Century. The State Council has just released a report on democracy in China. (See story here.) That report affirms the primacy of the Communist Party and makes clear that the government has no intention of embracing the values of freedom and democracy as we understand them in the West. Democracy was first established in China by Sun Yat-sen in 1911. Here's what the State Council's paper says about that experience.
"'The bourgeois republic, including the parliamentarism (sic) and multiparty system that were subsequently established after the Revolution of 1911 in imitation of the mode of Western democracy, did not fulfill the fervent desire of the Chinese people for independence and democracy.

"'Through painstaking exploration and hard struggle, the Chinese people finally came to realize that mechanically copying the Western bourgeois political system and applying it to China would lead them nowhere.'"

Don't hold your breath for freedom and democracy in China anytime soon.

China's political development matters beyond present politics here on Earth. The nature of the regimes who send people into space matters too. It's inevitable that humans will colonize space. It'll matter to future settlers in space what kind of government sends them there. The experience in the Americas shows how the nature of the colonizer has consequences that last through history. By most measures, Britain's former colonies in the Americas have fared much better than Spain's former colonies.

The US owes it to future space colonists to be a leader in space. If we don't lead others will. If China overtakes us and its regime remains the same, the future in space will be less free.


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