Xinhua (via China Daily) has just reported Chinese journalists blocked from covering the Endeavor launch due to the ‘Wolf Clause.’ The clause was introduced into the 2011 budget bill by congressman Frank Wolf and signed into law by President Obama just one month ago. It is unfortunate, because China’s scientists have designed some core parts of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS) particle detector which was on board the shuttle. The detector is “mankind’s most ambitious effort to date to explore the universe’ origin.” This is a rare opportunity to collaborate in science and humanity; politics need not play a part. So, I must say, I share the articles indignation at what transpired, especially in the recent Strategic & Economic Dialog, the two countries leaders pledged expanding cooperation.
This story has brought back an irony I mentioned a while ago involving the European Galileo program. In my article last year on Beidou (COMPASS), China’s GPS, I mentioned:
In an interesting twist, the E.U. had originally signed China on to work together on the Galileo project back in 2003. However, the E.U. kept China away from major decisions for the project. The E.U. also failed to secure financing for their portions of the program. As a result, China pulled out of the partnership.
(The Chinese Beidou ended up launching first.)
International Telecommunications Union convention is basically “first come first served” when a country wishes to grab certain frequencies. Newer satellites sent to orbit must not disrupt frequencies that are already in use.
Could the U.S. look back at this moment like the Europeans did with Galileo? If the U.S. is hell bent on not wanting to collaborate with China on space exploration, then China will likely go on her own. Or, others will partner with her. In fact, China recently unveiled plans to launch her own space station by the end of the decade. China and Russia have also announced plans to put a man on Mars by 2040. Below is Russia Today’s report:
Stan Abrams wrote a very good blog about this. He didn’t think that it would’ve happened last week. It is sad what the US are doing in this childish kind of protectionism. Stan mentions that even during the cold war with the Soviets, US and USSR have some kind of cooperation in Science and Technology.
Charles Liu says
Well one can’t be too careful. Rumor has it all those Shenzhou capsules floating up there are limbs for a robot. Once the Chinese “space lab” torso is up there, they will assemble into a killer Voltron with laser belly button!
Even Stan’s article is very mild in terms of criticism, and he tries to rationalize it with “espionage is a problem”. Where’s the visceral “oppression”, “press freedom” war cry?
Just check on news.google – HH might be among the first to report this outside China. Kudos.
I don’t think Stan’s article singling out China as a special concern makes any sense.
Cooperation in the sciences necessarily include information exchange. To cooperate is to allow others to learn from you and you from them. The same espionage concerns he points out for China applies to the Soviet Union during the height of the cold war. The same espionage concern applies today even to companies from amongst ally countries.
China may be less sophisticated about the art of espionage, but to characterize China as somehow a spy on steroid makes Stan more a China basher than anything else. (see, e.g., my recent post titled China Hacking, Poisoning, and Piracy) The concern about Chinese espionage probably has more to do with wanting to narrowly pigeon hole the scope of any collaboration with China (arising from innate U.S. fear about China) then China per se.
The only thing with legs that makes China different than all other countries apparently can be found in Wolf’s quote:
China would probably be the least developed of nations with which U.S. partnered in science. In the estimation of the U.S., the costs of cooperation with China is not outweighed by the benefits of cooperation.
This is a strategic decision: it may be right or it may be wrong, I think arguments can go both ways. In my view, the U.S. is probably tactically right not to cooperate with China at this point in time. Strategically however, it is making a blunder.
Even if China is the junior partner today, if you can make them a partner, that alone is worth the cost of cooperating. When China does become a real behemoth of innovation, they will already be a partner, and you will already be learning from the and reaping the benefits of being in partnership with them.
If you however wait till it becomes irrefutable that cooperating with China will leave an immediate benefit, it’ll be too late. Most likely, the U.S. will be in decline and China will be in ascent at that point: if China is not already a partner, China will have neither the strategic nor tactical motivation to expend the effort to partner with the U.S. then.
This is typical of the narrow mindedness of U.S. politics. Whether it’s debt – or foreign policy – the U.S. Congress is retarded.
Abrams is still at it propagating this ‘espionage’ narrative (in Allen’s word, singling out China). Granted, I agree with many of the things he said in the article. To many readers his article might have seemed ‘neutral.’ But it is really not.
I have written once about him doing this sort of thing in the past:
“China & Industrial Espionage: When Will It End?” – a wrong mindset
Charles Liu says
Here’s an article from an “industry source”, if you will:
Wow, I was kidding about the Shenzhou Voltron thing, but looks like they are going to dock and it does look like a robot.
This ‘Wolf clause’ story has become the third most popular search item on Baidu as of May 18, 2011 Beijing time. Ever wonder how Chinese opinion about America is formed?
Despite the desire of Russia and to a less extent EU, China was firmly rejected to be a part of the ISS program. This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise because the ISS program is much much more expensive in its per ton cost than China’s upcoming space station.
This shuttle launch, if I am not mistaken, is the 2nd to the last mission of the shuttle program. After that, there is no immediate American manned space launching vehicle lined up. It’s actually quite likely that China will have more manned space flights in the next decade than the US.