China in Space

There is post with some good links about the Chinese space program on Metafilter. I had a bunch of thoughts. I grew up on space exploration and science fiction, and Robert Heinlein’s novels featuring a colonized solar system. I remember the moon landing. I was 5. All very nice and a source of national pride, etc.

The best comment I ever heard anyone make about it was my mother, a true Jacksonian, Boston Irish style. She said if she had been Neil Armstrong, she’d have planted the flag on the moon and claimed it for America. “They could court martial me when I got back. It would be too late.” She would have. Old time lefties used to say the space program was all a front for the Pentagon. If only it were true. I wish we had gone into space to seize and hold the high ground over the planet to obtain a permanent and crushing military superiority for the United States. That strikes me as a worthy use of my tax money. Instead it was, to be blunt, a gigantic publicity stunt, which yielded us no concrete advantage at all. The Chinese, give them this much, will be seeking concrete military advantage with their space program, gaining experience with large, long-range missiles, with anti-satellite technology, with the military exploitation of space, developing the means to deny the use of space to the United States, their main adversary, the dragon they will have to slay one day, or at least drive out of the Pacific basin, back over the horizon to its lair in North America. Even a “moon base” could be used as a weapon platform to outflank satellite-based ABM technology. (See Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. A classic.)

The Chinese will probably talk the claptrap of humanity exploring the cosmos, the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge for all, blah, blah, blah. Unlike us, they aren’t stupid enough to believe in that stuff. They will do what is good for China, which means what is bad for China’s enemies, especially us. That’s what I’d do if I were them, and I don’t hold it against them and I’d expect no less.

How do say Jacksonian in Chinese?

20 thoughts on “China in Space”

  1. Dear Mr. Lexington Green,

    Aren’t you a bit paranoid…sorry, derogatory word maybe (english is only my third best foreign language, you know), let’s say… a little bit too tense about the Yellow Peril, resurfacing on the Moon ?

    This has been, by the way, the exact trend of the military establishment in the US to instill fear with preposterous/faked menace in order to gobble greater pieces of the federal budget cake.

    And now, we are on mini-nukes, and now we are on preemptive strikes (with no motives, no WMDs, no legal base, no international consensus), now we are on militarizing the Moon, space, the planets, the galaxy were it possible.

    Don’t you think this madness has to stop somewhere ? And that there are more pressant problems to think of ?

    I don’t even speak about world’s pollution or depletion. No. Just think about the poors in the US : US citizens, 15 millions of them. 1.7 million more this year.
    And all the “working poor”, those on the threshold of abject poverty.
    47 million Americans on the whole !

    I think it’s quite a stain on this paramount model of democracy and economic development, don’t you think ?

    Anyway, just a fraction of the obscene amount of wealth diverted to the military, for no avail (for one can win techno-wars with all the flashing and dreadful wizardry, but it’s another story to establish peace, look at the enduring chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq), just a bit of this budget then would alleviate this scandalous poverty right in the middle of the Land of the Free.

    I do count on the responsible US government to come to terms with that…

  2. Georges:

    “.. now we are on militarizing the Moon, space, the planets, the galaxy were it possible.”

    That sounds like a government program I could support. Send details!

    As to the military having too much of the budget cake, I’m the last guy you want to talk to. In my dream world the US Gov would consist of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Bureau of Prisons and very little else.

    As to the “poors”, it is not the Government’s job to give them jobs, it is up to the Government to get out of the way so the private sector can create jobs. That’s the paramount model.

    If you think we live in a world of imaginary dangers you should visit the widows of the dead cops and firemen who dies on 9/11 with flowers. Each one. Tell them the world is full of imaginary dangers.

    Anyway, I’ll stop there. Sylvain has more patience than I do.

  3. Lex, it’s not patience at this point, it’s mostly benevolent stubborness.

    I love Georges’ numbers about the poors and working poors in the US. If the anti-American litany were a religion (well, it is, almost), this would be have to be part of the core prayer. The interesting bit is that most people who blindly repeat these stats don’t even know where these numbers come from, or what defines a poor or a working poor.

    They are based on a rather loose and generous definition of the poverty line that assumes you are poor if you make less than half the median income. In the US, that’s anything below $15,000 a year. In other words, and according to that definition, most of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, and many regions of the bigger countries, including France, are poor.

    Now the funny bit is that as of May 2004, the number of people in the EU below the US poverty line will be about twice what it is in the US, thanks to the arrival of ten members whose national average income per capita is nowhere close to $15,000 a year. Oooopsy.

    So I expect that definition of the poverty line to be updated for the EU very soon…I’d bet on it. And when they do, you can still expect the old definition to be still applied to America. I’d bet on that too.

    But of course, France is so much better. It has one of the highest proportion of temps on payrolls in the western world – way higher than in the US -, and one of the the lowest turnover for low-wage employees; in other words, if you make the minimum wage for more than a couple of years, you stay there, or close to that for a very, very long time.

    When the majority of those who qualify as working poor according to the stats in America are in that situation temporarily. In other words, most people who start there – usually those without a college degree – eventually move on up. BLS stats, Fed data, surveys, there is extensive data to prove it. All ignored, of course. We can’t be bothered with facts, specially if they might hint America may not be the hell on Earth we so want it to be.

    In fact, the majority of my friends in the US were officially working poor while they were in college and for some, a couple of years after they got out of it. They shared an apartment or a house, made little money and worked two jobs. Most of the people in that situation do not stay there. The vast majority of individuals I know who work in the restaurant business, for instance, start off at a level of income that qualifies them as working poor. Because their cash tips are not included….Oh well. Forget the real world, we have stats to produce over here.

    The kids who bag your groceries ? They are counted as working poor as well. Never mind that they live with Mom and Dad and drive to work in their own $14,000 car, the payments of which are their main motivation for working at the store.

    Of course, in the great French social model, employer taxes on labor are so high there is no one to bag your groceries. And no one to park your cart either. You need to stick a 1 or 2-euro coin to disconnect your cart from the others, and you can only get it back by bringing the cart all the way back. The customer does all the work, and about 25 jobs are eliminated per store, at a minimum.

    In a way, that is the paradox, the irony and the joke of French-style statism and socialism. These bureaucratic geniuses, none of whom ever ran a business, do not understand that the cost of hiring and the cost of firing are one and the same thing for a private business. That if you make it expensive to fire people, you also make it pricy to hire them. So businesses have been investing in machinery and high-productivity processes for 20 years. Making the customer do as much as possible is nice too.

    Bottom line : France is now more productive than America. That means we employ fewer people per unit of output than the US; for car manufacturing, we even beat Japan. And use a lot more temps than anyone in Europe.

    And this makes sense. Business owners have a longer term vision than politicians. Between creeping socialism and demographic trends, they’ve figured out a long time ago they’d better invest in automation and be able to run their business with as few people as possible. And if long-term employment is made prohibitively expensive by taxation and labor regulation, you might as well use temps and keep renewing them. Why do otherwise ?

    So unemployment is stuck at a minimum of 9% most of the time. When in America, after 3 years of recession, it’s 6%.

    And then there are the other myths and superstitions about the US; like you need a credit card to get into a hospital, even in ER. Never mind the 4,500 non-profit hospitals managed by foundations and religious institutions. They don’t exist.

    Or that there is no welfare system for the poor; Medicaid, Medicare and state programs are just unknown to journalists who think according to a centralized statist model and don’t get the federal system at all.

    Also, they believe the majority of people without health insurance are poor. Again, federal welfare programs who do provide minimum health care for the poorest count for nothing. And never mind the fact that more than half of these people are uninsured by choice. They work for small businesses, or for themselves, are healthy and choose to take their chances. It doesn’t dawn on your average French leftist that if health care payments were made optional in France, a lot of people, specially the younger, healthier, single crowd would simply choose to opt out for a decade. The number of uninsured in the US also includes most college students, even though many – if not most – are still covered at least in part by their parents’ insurance.

    When I get back home and I read and listen what people have to say about the US and its real and mostly imaginary flaws, it feels like we might as well be on the moon. They might actually know more about America if it were up there than across the Atlantic. And the beauty of listening to this while seating at a cafe in Paris on a sunny day is that you will be interrupted every 12mn by some poor soul who wants some money to buy food.

    Some social model.

  4. This is just another reason that need to begin immediate construction on a giant space capsule like the one from “Moonraker” that will open it’s huge jaws to capture China’s first manned space flight in orbit, and all subsequent flights. (Heh.)

  5. Aaron, you are on the right track. That’s my kind of thinking. But I thought was in You Only Live Twice — the best of the early Bond movies?

  6. Lex,

    As a Jacksonian, Armstrong’s planting of the flag is enough for me to welcome the orbiting 51st State into our glorious Union!

    Europe’s GPS program is a ‘threefer’: A point of national pride for France, a state-run jobs program and most importantly, as a way to dominate the US militarily in space. Of course, that cannot be allowed.

    Chirac shares the UN/Clinton/Albright/Dean/Kerry etc. view that America is the problem, and that China & Europe should be the counterweight. Chirac was happy to give Hussein the capability to nuke Israel; now he wants to provide the same service to China vis-a-vis the USA.

    (Has there been a more shameless, disgusting and hypocritical display recently than Chirac pretending to be the Iraqi citizen’s best friend?
    I mean, aside from the Democratic candidates…)

    BTW, I’m pleased to see that you are honoring noted Hayekian economist, Larry Fine, expositor of the famous ‘Laugher Curl’.

  7. Noel, I think you deserve some kind of prize for being the first person to note the inclusion of Prof. Fine on our masthead.

  8. The issue is not reassuring, considering previous
    prescedent. Remember that the Atlas which boosted
    the Mercury and Gemini, were derived from ICBMs.
    The same with the Soviet boosters behind their
    launchers up to the Energia; If China has the
    technology to launch such a mission, clearly
    indicates that thanks to Clinton, & Bernie
    Schwartz of Loral as well as Armstrong then at
    Hughes, have allowed the Chinese to strike their
    targets deep into the US. Let alone the Moon based
    catapult suggested by Heinlein

  9. Don’t forget the W-88, for which China now has plans. Lighter payload equals longer range, or greater yield at the same weight.

  10. Spike, that is most interesting. A more elaborated explanation of how you arrived at that translation would be worth a comment.

  11. No, Lex, it wouldn’t.

    But, if you insist; the phrase springs from the exploits of the famous Chinese patriot and old ho Leean, victor of the Battle of Los Alamos, who successfully downloaded the nuclear crown jewels after midnight on Christmas Eve, Year of the Rat.

    Authorities are still seeking his accomplice, an “Agent 0069”, referred to in secret intercepts as “Fmr.POTUS WJC”, but have no other clues.

  12. It’s not unusual for the Dept. of Energy to be loved by anyone

    It’s not unusual, it happens every day, no matter what they say

    You can leave your hat on and walk out with the hard drives

    Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh. .. ..

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