As the dawn breaks on the 21st Century, already the social andpolitical tides that shaped the world of the 20th Century moveacross the globe, repositioning political alignments, opening some borders whileclosing others. If the last one hundred years were the American Century, and,as some believe, the United States now stands at the apex of itspolitical, economic and military power, it can be argued that--as historydictates--a fall is sure to follow.
How and when is yet to be seen, but already two players wait in the wings,redefining their roles on the world stage and preparing for their close-ups.But while the European Union expands and forges its own identity in a slowbureaucratic manner, making sure not to ruffle feathers on this side of theAtlantic, China races to embrace its destiny as a global player to be reckonedwith. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the realm of space exploration.
For decades, the world's most populous nation lived in self-imposed isolation, butnow it moves to engage the world as an economic, cultural, and, inevitably, a militarypower. Just as the Cold War spawned the spacerace and put a man on the moon, much of today's quest for space is rooted in thedesire to gain--and keep--the military advantage, the "higher ground". As most Americanssaw during both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the useof space-based assets allowed U.S.-led coalition forces to coordinateeverything from food drops to waging fierce military offenses with deadlyprecision. Chinawas watching, too.
Though both nations are intertwined economically, with American investment helpingdrive Chinese business and the American consumer purchasing manufacturedproducts, such a partnership could easily be undone over the issue of Taiwaneseindependence, territorial and natural resource disputes, or the issue of North Korea'snuclear program. With a space program deeply rooted in its military, America remains skeptical and wary of China'sintentions. But if the Cold War taught us anything, it is that measuredresponses and tentative steps can open channels of communication andcooperation.
For this special report, we invited JeffreyLewis of the Center for International and Security Studies at theUniversity of Maryland, The Heritage Foundation's Larry M. Wortzel, Phillip C. Saunders, from the National Defense University'sInstitute of National Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., and Vincent G. Sabathier,a visiting senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,to examine China's emerging space prowess, its military applications and if--andhow--the United States should engage that country.
Anthony Duignan-Cabrera is the Editorial Director of Imaginova Corporation's Consumer Media Division. He is also the editor of Ad Astra Magazine. This Special Report first appeared in the Spring, 2005 edition of Ad Astra Magazine.
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