The world has congratulated China on its latest successful human space flight with a few wondering whether China's successful five-day mission might trigger a new round of space race.
China's answer to the question is No. Senior Chinese leaders and leading Chinese space officials have made clear China's intention of manned space activities is for scientific exploration and peaceful use of space resources.
Shortly after the launch of spacecraft Shenzhou VI with Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng on board, Premier Wen Jiabao declared the purpose of the country's manned space program.
Our human space activities is to contribute to mankind's undertakings of sciences and peace, he said. "We are willing to join hands with people all over the world for peaceful use of space."
Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of China Manned Space Program, said China has been carrying out its space program for peace and in accordance with its own timetable and needs.
"It is our prime goal to probe into the secrets of space and explore and utilize resources," Wang told Xinhua on the eve of the launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province.
China's position on space race tallies with its national development strategy of peace and development.
Despite its rapid economic development and improving national strength, China, a country with 1.3 billon people, still lags far behind with the the United States, Russia and some other countries in terms of economic and technological development.
China's Finance Minister Jin Renqing said China's per-capita gross domestic product just exceeded US$1,000, a level similar to that of Sri Lanka.
China is also troubled by widening gap between the urban and rural areas, and its 800 million farmers are not covered by medical insurance and social security network.
China's manned space flight came more than 42 years after the Soviet Union put world's first astronaut in space and 35 years after the United States sent its first astronaut to the Moon.
Chinese space officials said the country's most powerful rocket carrier available is not powerful enough for a manned landing on a moon.
All those indicate that China do not have the political will, nor economic strength and technological capability for a space race with other countries.
Space officials said China's spending on the latest space mission was 900 million yuan (US$110 million).
A total of 19 billion yuan (about US$2 billion) was used for previous Shenzhou V manned flight and four unmanned flights, most of which was used for infrastructure on the ground and human resources training.
The United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and India have recently announced their ambitious lunar landing programs and other space programs for political, economic and scientific and even military purposes.
Their programs indicate that exploration of outer space is a natural choice for the mankind to due to the importance of outer space for different reasons.
With its per capita major natural resources far below the world's average, China could not afford the absence of space exploration and peaceful use of the space resources.
Wang Changhong, a professor with the Aerospace institute of Harbin University of Technology, said China's space exploration for peaceful purposes is surely a contribution to the world.
"We may have unexpected gains in our outer space exploration as the world faces increasing consumption and shortage of energy, while looking for possible special effects in terms of biological and agricultural technology in outer space."
Driven by the purpose of scientific exploration and peaceful use of space, China has been advocating international cooperation in that regard.
Two resources satellites developed by China and Brazil have been sent into space, and China's cooperation with Europe in "Double Stars" deeper space program has been going on smoothly.
Hu Zhixiang, deputy commander in chief of China Manned Space Program, said China believes the international community should work together for manned space activities as they are too costly for any single country in the word.
"So international cooperation will help those countries share costs and learn from others' strong points to offset weak ones."
Chinese astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng's safe return to the Earth after a historic five-day space mission has proved China's capability of sending men into space orbits.
Yang Liwei became the first Chinese taikonaut who orbited the Earth on Oct. 15, 2003 on a 21 hour mission in space, making China only the third country capable of sending man into space after the United States and Russia.
(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2005)