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Analysis: China's Ambitions For Space

Chinese leader Hu Jintao, with Shenzhou 6 astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, in Beijing's Great Hall.
By Edward Lanfranco
UPI Correspondent
Beijing (UPI) Nov 29, 2005
Last weekend, in Beijing's massive Great Hall, Chinese leader Hu Jintao outlined some of his country's ambitions for a space program and its applications in building a great nation.

An anxious guard at the main entrance to Beijing's massive Great Hall of the People shouted, "This isn't a typical conference!" at the government cabinet media keeper shepherding foreign reporters including United Press International into the cavernous confines of the Mao-era edifice Saturday morning.

The supervisor's security concerns were justified: the entire nine-man collective leadership headed by Hu, as well as 3,000 high ranking members of the military, party and government officials concerned with high technology, were all gathered in one spot to celebrate the success of the Shenzhou VI manned spaceflight of October 2005.

The event was moderated by Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress and No. 2 in the Communist Party. The first person introduced was premier Wen Jiabao, third in the party hierarchy and the man responsible for the daily operation of the national government.

"The success of the Shenzhou VI mission is of great significance in enhancing the overall national strength, accelerating the growth of science and technology and bracing the spirit of the Chinese nation," the premier said.

"The fact that China had accomplished the great jump from one-person-one-day space flight to multi-person-multi-day space mission within two years has marked a new landmark victory in China's manned space technology," he added.

Wen read out a decision of the party's Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission (CMC) to honor astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng with the titles of "Hero Astronaut" and medals for "Space Flight Achievement."

After president Hu bestowed the awards, the premier left the conference for the northeastern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province to monitor progress of the work dealing with a huge spill of toxic chemicals poisoning the Songhua River.

The ceremony continued with speeches by CMC member General Chen Binde, who serves as Chief Commander of China's Manned Space Program, mission astronaut Fei Junlong, and Wu Yansheng, head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Themes common to all the speakers were paeans on the wisdom of the Chinese Communist Party, its leadership, plus praise heaped upon the cause of socialist development permeated with jingoistic nationalist rhetoric.

The keynote speech was made by Hu Jintao. No one is suggesting the spirit of Camelot has moved to Beijing, but analysts note elements of the Chinese leader's address were reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's stirring words in 1961 and 1963 at the time America was ramping up its reach for the stars.

Both presidents used challenges of space to inspire their peoples beyond practical problems of the moment; both had the goal of pursuing a space program to demonstrate of the superiority of their political ideology and form of government, and both saw the long term practical benefits of spurring technical innovation within their respective societies. Kennedy and Hu also set out four-point programs determining respective national space policies.

In May 1961 Kennedy went before Congress with the awesome proposition of putting a man on the moon and bringing him back safely before 1970. Forgotten now were his calls for additional funding for the Rover series nuclear powered rocket as well as the development of satellite systems for communications and worldwide weather tracking.

During his Nov. 26 speech, Hu outlined his administration's four policy objectives. The president recognized "science and technology are primary productive forces" and singled out aerospace workers as models for the motherland. Next Hu said "China's major future strategy should be forging a nation of independent innovation."

The Chinese president's third point focused on space's contribution to "the central task of economic development and the frontiers of international science and technology." Last Hu made a call for greater development of the country's vast human resources: "In the final analysis, competition for international global strength is a competition of nations' educated population."

Things Kennedy explained to an American audience more than 40 years ago are the same ideas Hu tells the Chinese now with his "scientific" government management and development: "This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread," the late U.S. president noted.

"It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel," Kennedy added.

This is where the comparisons stop. While the president's final major address on space in September 1962 at Rice University in Houston, Texas mentioned progress on satellites, Kennedy did not live to see the dream he gave America realized in July 1969.

Hu Jintao's address was one celebrating a milestone accomplishment for China as the first Asian and first developing country as a space faring nation. Hu called the Shenzhou VI mission "a song of triumph in the course of the Chinese nation's revitalization."The president said all Chinese felt "great pride and honor" because of the event.

According to Hu, innovation should be taken as a priority in the development of philosophy and social sciences which are guided by Marxism and its latest Chinese expressions, Deng Xiaoping theory and the important thought of the Three Represents.

One hopes Hu and the rest of his space crew look at something else Kennedy said about space. "We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds."

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Hong Kong (XNA) Nov 27, 2005
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