The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, October 17, 2005

A rallying point for China

There's been precious little coverage of it in the US, but China's second manned space flight returned to Earth successfully today. The first, BTW, was in 2003, and it made China the third country (after Russia and the US) to put a man into space.

A quote from an article (link here) from the BBC:

The current mission comes almost exactly two years after China's first
manned spaceflight.

Beijing has attached great importance to its space programme, viewing
it as a source of national pride and international prestige.

China hopes to set up a space station within five years and eventually
it wants to put an astronaut on the Moon.

One interesting feature of this article is the set of interviews the BBC conducted with four Chinese about the spaceflight. The BBC calls them "four ordinary citizens", but it should be noted that they're all young professionals (a banker, lawyer, salesperson, scientific researcher), so no claim should be made that these are representative of the entire country. Regardless, it's interesting to hear real excitement about this event from members of their professional class. A quote from Yazhuo Ye in Ningbo:

There are a lot of exciting things happening around me - the world's
highest road, completed on Qinghai Plateau; the world's longest bridge is under
construction which will shorten our journey to Shanghai; and a new supermarket,
hotel and club are opening right opposite my house. My new flat's decoration is
being finished, my consulting company is opening and I am busy advertising it.

This manned spacecraft is just one of them. I feel it's a bit too
high-profiled and too commercial as scientific research though. Maybe its my
need to change - to accept scientists who can do more than 'just do it quietly'.

China is a moving world, only if you come here and experience it by
yourself.

And this from Lawman Chen in Xiamen:
The painful recent history of China rouses the sense of responsibility of
Chinese people to build up a developed and advanced nation.

After dozens of years' efforts by Chinese people, the world has
witnessed the waking-up of the sleeping dragon. The manned space project is a
symbol of these efforts. It shows China's capacity to develop cutting-edge
technologies. It shows Chinese people's intelligence and diligence.

The success of this project will undoubtedly encourage Chinese people to study harder, work harder and research harder to make more and more miracles. Looking into the future, I expect the coming of another greater success - Chinese landing on the moon.

I would expect that space travel is indeed serving as a rallying point for China today, just as it did for the US in the 60s. It's an awesome accomplishment, and will undoubtedly fuel increased excitement about science, technology, and progress in a country that, by all accounts, is already on fire in these areas.

While I wish there had been more coverage of this event in the US, that's a minor concern when compared to the big picture: the Chinese are experiencing record growth and progress in so many areas (the space program, while a highly visible rallying point, is only one example), while the US continues to slog along, with little public discussion and even less real change in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

Isn't it clear where this path ends?

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