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China, however, was nowhere to be found.
As the United States and the Soviet Union fought for superiority in this new area, Mao Zedong, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), reportedly said, “China cannot even put an apple. of earth in space.
Fast forward more than six decades and President Xi Jinping, the current Chinese leader, congratulates three astronauts who were sent to the country’s own space station earlier this month.
Since Mao’s comments, China has launched satellites, sent humans into space, and now plans to build a base on Mars, achievements and ambitions Beijing has highlighted as the centenary of the CCP’s founding approaches.
“President Xi Jinping has declared that China’s ‘space dream’ must overtake all nations and become the leading space power by 2045,” said Christopher Newman, professor of law and space policy at the British University of Northumbria. “All of this fuels China’s ambition to be the world’s only science and technology superpower.
Why the space?
But there are other implications as well.
“It is important for China and the United States because it can advance technological development” in areas such as “national security and some socio-economic development”, according to Sa’id Mosteshar, director of the London Institute. of Space Policy and Law and associate researcher. Christoph Beischl.
The spatial achievements also concern optics.
Through space exploration to the Moon or to Mars, “China and the United States are showing their technological sophistication to the national public and the world, increasing their national and international prestige, national legitimacy and international influence,” said Mosteshar and Beischl.
China’s space ambitions
China has been much more aggressive in recent years in filing space technology patents as it prepares for some of these future missions.
Between January 2000 and June 2021, Chinese entities filed 6,634 patents related to space travel, including vehicles and equipment, according to data compiled for CNBC by GreyB, a patent research firm. But nearly 90% of those patent applications have been filed in the past five and a half years.
Between January 2016 and June 2021, the three main patent applications came from Chinese entities, followed by the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing. It highlights how quickly China hopes to develop the technologies needed for more advanced spaceflight.
“These patents not only signify the level of innovation in China related to space, but also a well-thought-out strategy to protect these innovations in order to gain economic advantage for its space-related technology,” Vikas said. Jha, assistant vice president of intellectual property solutions. at GreyB.
“In the near future, most of the cosmonautics patents will belong to China (unless others follow suit), which means that China can become a guardian of the use of space technology for them. private actors and governments. strategy to become a superpower not only on Earth, but also in space. “
American-Chinese space tensions
“The United States remains ahead overall in all areas of space capacity, but China is rapidly reducing that lead,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School of International Affairs, told CNBC. George Washington University.
“The United States has a strong policy for space exploration, a clear direction, and capable allies and partners,” he said. “The challenge for the United States is not so much what China is doing, but how well and how quickly the United States is implementing its own plans. “
One example is a disagreement last year between the two nations over the so-called Artemis Agreements, a NASA-led deal that seeks to create rules around responsible and fair space exploration. Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom have all registered. China has not.
“The polarization of space activity along geopolitical lines is a key and possibly existential threat to human space activity,” said Newman of Northumbria University.
“For China and its allies, the agreements represent an attempt to bypass the traditional forum of international decision-making,” he added.
“It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult to achieve the kind of unified agreements that are necessary to deal with problems such as space debris, the management of space traffic and the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources. “