September 27, 2008
Shenzhou-7 Mission Brings Subtle Change to China-US-Russia Relations – Agency
Text of report by Hong Kong-based news agency Zhongguo Tongxun She
["Beijing Observation" by contributing reporter Zhuang Jingqian: "Shenzhou VII Mission Brings About Subtle Adjustment to Three-Way Rivalry Among China, United States, and Russia"]
The most noteworthy components of the Shenzhou VII mission are the first ever extra-vehicular activity for Chinese astronauts and the release of a miniaturized satellite. Although the Chinese cheer it and are proud of it and there is a chorus of positive comments from the media home and abroad, the United States and Russia mastered the manned spaceflight technology related to this as early as 34 years ago. They are far ahead of China in the terms of spacecraft, international space station, and lunar and Martian explorations. To achieve the quantum leap from a numerically strong space nation to a technologically strong space nation, China needs at least another 10 to 15 years.
Nevertheless, the Shenzhou VII mission still has very profound and far-reaching implications. Not only does it demonstrate China's more precise command of critical technologies for manned spaceflight, setting the scene for rendezvous and docking manoeuvres in the next phase and even for the creation of an international space station; more importantly, it will have a potential impact on the development of the three-way relations among China, the United States, and Russia.
First of all, the Shenzhou VII mission not only marks a quantum leap in China's scientific and technological strength, as space exploration by any country is in essence a symbol of the country's defence strength and even its overall national strength. As the third country to master manned spaceflight technology, China is, one solid step at a time, consolidating its position in the three-way rivalry in space exploration against the United States and Russia. In some sense, this is as much a contribution to world peace as China's mastery of nuclear bomb technology. After all, balance in a true sense is only possible with multiple parties holding one another back.
Secondly, the relationship of interdependence between the United States and Russia in space cooperation may change because of China's involvement, which may in turn have an impact on the relations among the three countries. The United States' three space shuttles that are currently in service will retire in two years' time, but the new manned spacecraft will not be commissioned till 2015 at the earliest. During the five years prior to that, the United States will have to rely on Russia's manned space shuttles to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. But after the successful launches of a series of Shenzhou spacecraft by China, the United States will have an extra option. The reopening of the Sino- US talks on space cooperation two months ago may serve as a proof of this. On the other hand, this will, at the same time, have a subtle impact on the space cooperation and exchange between China and Russia.
From "geopolitics" to "space politics," in order to seize the strategic heights of the future, China is moving steadily forward, but there is still a long way to go and the task remains arduous.
Originally published by Zhongguo Tongxun She, Hong Kong, in Chinese 27 Sep 08.
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