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The Shenzhou 6 Spacecraft Mission: a Show of Ego?

Listening to the Voice of America: What do the Chinese people say about China’s spacecraft mission?

On October 12, 2005, China launched its second manned spacecraft, "Shenzhou 6." Its first spacecraft mission was two years ago. For the Chinese government, it’s another opportunity to inspire nationalistic sentiment. Through the state media, the government claimed that the Shenzhou 6 mission was a great achievement in the history of manned space exploration and that it improved China’s overall national strength and global reputation. According to reports from the Chinese media, the whole country appeared to be wildly enthusiastic about the event.

According to an October 16 report from Voice of America (VOA), a U.S.-based foreign language broadcast station, however, ordinary Chinese people didn’t seem excited about the event at all. In fact, they seem to have more complaints than compliments. Following are comments from the VOA audience on China’s spacecraft missions.

Life Here Is Too Difficult to Care About Missions in Outer Space

A gentleman from Jilin Province said that what Chinese people care most about nowadays is not the manned space mission but about the tribulations of daily life, "A spacecraft was launched into the sky, but human rights have fallen to new lows. The state media’s propaganda just tries to inspire greater patriotic passion. As a man who lived through the craze of the first Chinese satellite launch in 1970, I’m not pumped up at all over this latest achievement. What do ordinary people care about now? There are so many difficulties in every day life: going to school, being able to afford medical care, employment, appealing to the government for help, protecting basic civil rights, and staying well informed on what’s happening in China. These are the things people care about. That is why I say, ‘A spacecraft was launched into the sky, but human rights have fallen to new lows.’"

In the opinion of Mr. Zhao, who is from Shandong Province, the government’s top priority should be to ensure that no one has to worry about the essentials of living. "I think there’s too much media coverage of Shenzhou 6," Mr. Zhao said. "Obviously they’re trying to make us forget that our lives are full of bad news, but it’s not working. The grassroots are merely struggling to survive; their biggest concerns are food, clothing, and shelter."

Aircraft Carrier or Space Army?

Mr. Cui from Jiangxi Province believes that it would be better to develop an aircraft carrier instead of launching manned spacecraft, " I think Shenzhou 6 is just to show off and is not of practical use. It would be better to build an aircraft carrier to improve our national defense capability."
Ordinary People’s Lives Versus a Show of National Strength

Mr. Wu from Zhejiang Province said that the money should be spent on people’s welfare instead of developing space programs, "The Shenzhou 6 program is extremely expensive. In China, many people do not have the money to see a doctor or for education. Isn’t it much better to spend the money on people’s welfare? Some people have said that the success of the Shenzhou 6 mission would improve China’s strength as a nation and help to mobilize people around the Chinese Communist Party. These are more likely the decision makers true motives."

A Great Achievement but Not Very Useful in Winning People’s Hearts

Mr. He from Zhejiang Province pointed out that the success of the Shenzhou 6 mission is not a solution to China’s political and social conflicts, "I think it is a great achievement that the Shenzhou 6 mission is successful. However, it is ‘Mission Impossible’ if the Chinese Communist Party thinks it can use this achievement to placate people. China has too many deep-rooted political and social conflicts, and this achievement is too trivial to resolve those conflicts."

A Necessity or a Luxury?

Mr. Huang from Shanghai believes that China has not reached a level appropriate for the development of space technology, "For the last day or two, the state-run media has spread propaganda on the Shenzhou 6 achievement, obviously for the purpose of increasing the credibility of the Chinese Communist Party and to inspire the patriotic passion of the Chinese people. If China’s economy were advanced and the Chinese people had stable and happy lives, it would be fine to develop a small space program. But right now China is underdeveloped and poor. It is crazy to spend money on space programs."

Mr. Feng from Tianjing believes that China’s current situation does not justify developing space technology, "Manned spacecraft programs are not in accordance with China’s situation or the will of the Chinese people. There is no need (for China) to develop manned space technology. China is a poor, developing country, and there are far more practical endeavors that need to be funded."

On the other hand, Mr. Zhang from Zhejiang Province says that China should develop space technology, "I think it is necessary to develop space technology because China is a big country."

Cristine Chen is a correspondent for Chinascope.