China's political leadership may be grappling with the flip side of technology after a world-class innovation like its high-speed rail system hit a major road block in terms of safety. However, China's space experts have been able to consolidate the country's position as an emerging competitor to the U.S. by means of a couple of success stories of late.
The global scientific community has hailed the successful orbiting of Tiangong 1, China's first space lab module and the subsequent launch of the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, which successfully docked with the earlier launched module. The mission will be expanded next year, when Shenzhou 9 will perform a manned docking with Tiangong 1, if everything goes according to plan.
Obviously, Beijing's latest space innovations have sparked a debate worldwide over its potential to take on or even beat the decades-long supremacy of the U.S. Those nerves were very visible in reactions by many experts, including renowned aerospace engineer and former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who had to accept the fact that China is, indeed, an emerging "space threat".
Experts are also bothered about the Obama administration's plan to massively cut funding for various NASA programs. Space expert Robert Zubrin wrote recently in the Washington Times: "NASA's astronauts have gone nowhere new since 1972, but these four decades of wasteful stagnation need not continue."
"We are at a watershed moment," Hubbard told an experts' conference recently.
"If President Obama were to act decisively and embrace (private ventures), we could have our first team of human explorers on the Red Planet by 2016." said Stanford University's Astronautics Professor Scott Hubbard, sharing Zubrin's concern.
President Obama has himself allayed fears that the U.S. domination in space exploration could soon be overtaken by Russia and China.
"Nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight than I am," he told reporters a few months ago.
There are still many who believe that any move to cut funding for space exploration by the federal government is short-sighted and will ruin NASA's long-term plans.
"A nation which at a particular moment in history finds itself at the peak of its power is particularly exposed to the temptation to forget that all power is relative. It is likely to believe that the superiority it has achieved is an absolute quality to be lost only through stupidity or neglect of duty," wrote leading political scientist Hans Morgenthau in his book, "Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace".
On the other hand, the political ends which China is pursuing by means of its recent focus on technological advancement haven't gone unnoticed. Many analysts believe that recent innovations mark the changing face of the Chinese Communist Party. These are also seen as a well-devised strategy to boost ties with some of its allies in the developing world. The country has recently deployed telecommunications satellites for Venezuela and Pakistan.