Opinion

WHITTINGTON: An American Space Partnership With China Would Be Disastrous For The World

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Whittington Contributor

Apollo moonwalker Buzz Aldrin once urged the United States to open a dialogue with China to form a space partnership. Aldrin is not the only person to make such a suggestion. But Beijing’s aggressive, imperialist actions with the goal of supplanting the United States as the world’s dominant superpower argues against such an initiative. China’s rank human rights abuses make a moral case against such a partnership as well.

China has committed widespread theft of American intellectual property for many years. A report by the United States Trade Representative states that China’s intellectual property theft costs the American economy between $225 billion to $600 billion a year.

China steals intellectual property in two ways. First, they engage in cyber espionage. Chinese hackers break into both government and private-sector computer files and steal the information.

Secondly, China requires technology transfers from American companies in return for allowing them to operate on Chinese soil. President Trump’s trade tariffs and the exit of some companies from China have started to close off this avenue.

If the United States invites China to join an international coalition as part of the “Artemis” program, which calls for a return to the moon, American intellectual property would be China’s for the taking, and the country would scoop up American deep-space exploration technology.

China could use these stolen secrets to establish an economic advantage over the United States. Beijing could use purloined technology to further its drive to establish China as the sole superpower on Earth. China could use the technology to create a dystopian social-credit state out of science fiction. The social-credit system could use surveillance cameras and internet monitoring to exercise control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives. The “Big Brother” of 1984 should have access to such tools.

China could also use stolen technology to enhance its space program. China has already sent humans to low Earth orbit and has sent probes to the surface of the moon. Beijing intends to build a small space station in Earth orbit within the next few years. Yet, China’s central focus is on the moon and its abundant resources. It intends to land humans on the lunar surface in the early 2030s. China will establish a base and start mining and exploiting those resources, and the country’s record suggests it will not be disposed to share.

China’s human rights record speaks very poorly for its fitness to be a space partner. Its government persecutes Christians and ethnic minorities. Beijing has rounded up over a million Uighurs, a Muslim minority group. They have herded the Uighurs into concentration camps for “reeducation.” The goal is to destroy their culture and make them “loyal” Chinese citizens.

China is unfit to become a partner in America’s exploration of space. But America’s drive back to the moon can serve a good purpose for reforming China’s government. NASA and her international and commercial partners could establish a lunar base, start creating a space-based economy, and send voyages of exploration to Mars. American and allied astronauts could greet the first Chinese visitors to the moon and ask if they have anything to declare.

China could become a space partner with the civilized world, but its government will have to change. It needs to stop stealing intellectual property. Beijing has to stop its imperial drive to challenge the United States and the rest of the world. The Chinese government must respect the human rights of its citizens. Then China can join with the rest of the world and explore the heavens together.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.