Peaceful competition in space benefits world

By Shen Dingli
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, October 20, 2016
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Two astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong aboard the Shenzhou XI spacecraft enter the space lab Tiangong II at 6:32 Wednesday morning Beijing Time.[Photo from Sina Weibo account of CCTV]

China successfully launched the manned spacecraft Shenzhou XI into space on Monday.

It docked with Tiangong-2 on Wednesday, the space lab China recently sent into the space, and the two astronauts on board will spend 30 days in the space lab.

This year China has set a record launching more than 20 objects into space, and the impressive achievements of its space program have caught the attention of the world.

China has overcome the challenges of sending astronauts into space and one of them successfully completed a spacewalk. It also has ambitions to land astronauts on the moon, and it plans to launch its first space station, which is expected to be the only such operational station by 2024 when the current International Space Station is scheduled to close. In the eyes of many, China is now a fast developing space power.

However, despite the progress China has made in its space program, there are those who question the wisdom of it, saying it is leading to competition between China and the United States that may undermine the stability of relations.

To some extent such competition does exist, but it has developed unevenly. The US is way ahead. China has failed in sending a probe to Mars in 2011, for instance, while the US and India have both succeeded in doing so. In fact, the US has successfully executed more than 20 missions to the Mars since the 1960s, with its latest probe, Curiosity, landing on the planet.

Both China and the US are devoting resources to the exploration of space, which is regarded as one of the remaining challenges for discovery along with the deep sea and the human body.

But space exploration has a dual nature, as space technology can also be used for military purposes. Indeed, the US has long sought to militarize space, the Reagan administration initiated a space-based anti-missile program, known as "Star Wars", although the technology proved to be too complex and the program was later cancelled. As the US wants unimpeded access to space and the ability to block the access of any other country, it is natural that there are some who think China has the same ambitions.

In fact, China has long urged the non-militarization of space. Since Reagan's "Star Wars" project, the world has faced the prospect of war being waged through or against space-based assets. However, China has maintained its position of the non-militarization of space. Beijing has raised the issue at the Conference on Disarmament, to prevent an arms race in space, but to no avail.

China is uninterested in militarizing space. It is willing to partner with other parties for the peaceful use of space. Toward this end, it is open to peaceful competition so that space can be explored for the common good.

Inquiring about the genesis of the earth, the galaxy and the universe is not just the mandate of the US, but the mission of all people.

The author is professor and associate dean at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University.

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