China has announced that the Chang'e-4 robotic mission to the Moon was "a complete success." The Chang'e-4 lunar probe carried out the first-ever soft landing on the moon's far side earlier this month, which marked a milestone for China's space industry.
A discussion on the implication of the spectacular Chang'e 4 mission to the Moon has been aired by CGTN (China Global Television Network) in World Insight with Tian Wei, with the participation of Giuseppe Reibaldi (Moon Village Association), Leroy Chiao (former NASA astronaut), and Yang Yuguang (China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation).
Napoleon reportedly said:
"China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world."
The giant, notes Marco Aliberti in "When China Goes to the Moon...," has eventually woken up, and "is indeed profoundly reshaping the panorama of the twenty-first-century geopolitical and economic realities... its ambitious space programme is dramatically changing the institutional landscape of global space activities."
Meanwhile, "The West" has gone to sleep. The days of Apollo are gone, and science fiction writer Neal Stephenson warns that "our inability to match the achievements of the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done." Even Western science fiction seems to have lost the ability to inspire. But Chinese science fiction is booming, and promising to inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers.
It seems likely that China will lead our expansion into space. This is the case in the recently published science fiction novel "Red Moon," by Kim Stanley Robinson. China occupies the South Pole–Aitken basin, which contains the Von Kármán crater where Chang'e 4 landed, and the lunar south pole. Lesser space powers such as the US and Europe have smaller outposts and a presence at the lunar north pole.
It’s worth noting that locations near the lunar south pole, such as the Shackleton crater, have been proposed by space agencies including NASA and ESA as interesting candidates for lunar outposts. Robinson's novel is remarkable for its fidelity to current plans for the colonization of the Moon, and to the current geopolitical situation.
Besides space technology, Robinson's novel, set in 2048, also shows maturing versions of emerging technologies such as quantum encryption and communication, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and cryptocurrencies.
China's long march to the forefront of these and other technologies is featured in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of MIT Technology Review, with the headline:
"China Rules: Genes, chips, qubits, rockets, reactors, surveillance, and sand - the tools of a rising superpower"
One of the articles, titled "How China got a head start in fintech, and why the West won’t catch up," notes that people in China use "fintech" payment apps, like Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat, much more than people in the West, but this plays in the hands of the surveillance state.
In fact, "REAL" cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, with a potential for privacy, are under attack in the country. China is also implementing a “social credit system” that seems “straight out of dystopian sci-fi.”
I praise China’s push to space and emerging technologies, but I hope the future will preserve privacy and personal freedom, which I consider among the most important achievement of our Western culture.
West, please wake up. Please.
Cover image from Pexels. Picture and video from CGTN.