In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which triggered a space race with the United States.
China, however, was nowhere to be seen.
While the U.S. and the Soviet Union were battling for superiority in this new domain, Mao Zedong, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), reportedly said: “China cannot even put a potato in space.”
Fast forward more than sixty years and you will see China’s current leader, President Xi Jinping, congratulate the three astronauts who were sent to China’s own space station earlier this month.
Since Mao Zedong’s comments, China has launched satellites to send humans into space and now plans to establish a base on Mars. Beijing has emphasized its achievements and ambitions as the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
Space is now another battleground between the U.S. and China amid a broader technological rivalry for supremacy, one that could have scientific and military implications on Earth.
“President Xi Jinping has declared that China’s ‘Space Dream’ is to overtake all nations and become the leading space power by 2045,” said Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at the U.K.’s Northumbria University. “This all feeds into China’s ambition to be the world’s single science and technology superpower.”