Fünfzig Jahre nach Neil Armstrongs ersten Schritten auf dem Mond gibt es erneut ein erstes Mal der Raumfahrtgeschichte: eine chinesische Sonde hat es geschafft, auf der Rückseite des Erdtrabanten zu landen. Doch was auf den ersten Blick wie ein Prestigeprojekt wirkt, das sogar NASA-Direktor Jim Bridenstine zur Gratulation via Twitter veranlasste, fügt sich ein in ein größeres Bild von Ambitionen auf lunare Ressourcen wie Wasser, seltene Erden oder die potenzielle Energiequelle Helium-3, die in den letzten Jahren die Vorstellungskraft von Regierungen und Privatunternehmen weltweit befeuert haben. Allerdings ist auch dieser jüngste Vorstoß Chinas lediglich Teil einer größeren Strategie, die die politische Führung des Landes verfolgt. Im Jahr 2015 identifizierte die Regierung die Polarregionen, die Tiefseeböden und den Weltraum als Chinas neue strategische Grenzen. Diese Gebiete eint, dass sie den globalen Gemeinschaftsgütern (global commons) zugerechnet werden, die nicht unter den Hoheitsbereich einzelner Staaten fallen, sondern allen offenstehen – zumindest theoretisch. Denn in der Praxis ist die Ausbeutung der dort befindlichen Ressourcen technologisch fortgeschrittenen Ländern vorbehalten, die imstande sind, ihren Einflussbereich weit über die eigenen Grenzen hinaus auszudehnen. Wie Chinas Rolle im Poker um die globale Ressourcenverteilung aussieht, können Sie im neuen Beitrag von Hendrik Schopmans lesen.
“A first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment” – when NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine took to Twitter to express his admiration in early January, it wasn’t to laud the most recent accomplishment of his own agency. Quite the contrary: Bridenstine congratulated China, one of the United States’ emerging competitors in the domain of space exploration, for successfully landing a probe on the far side of the moon – a feat that none of the traditional space powers has ever accomplished.
Five decades after Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the lunar surface, not everyone might share Bridenstine’s excitement over an unmanned moon landing. Yet, China’s successful mission undoubtedly constitutes a break in the geopolitics of outer space. By performing an unprecedented and highly sophisticated operation, China made an announcement to the world: We’re in space, too, and we’re here to stay. And indeed: In the years ahead, China plans to cement its status as space power through further missions, including a crewed mission to the moon that is planned for as early as the 2030s.
But there’s more to China’s moon landing than simply a desire for international prestige. Interest in the moon’s resources, in particular water, rare earths, and the potential energy source helium-3, has surged in recent years, fuelling the imaginations of governments and private enterprises alike. In the view of many observers, future manned landings will only serve as the precursor for the establishment of permanent lunar bases, which in turn could be used as gateways for both mining operations and exploration missions into deep space. While likely still years away, the prospect of a permanent Chinese presence on the moon has sparked calls for the U.S. to step up its own space program – in order not to play second fiddle to China in an emerging space race.
Although the US and China just pledged more cooperation in trade matters, the persistence of today’s global institutional architecture is rather uncertain as a power shift manifests itself ‘from West to East’. While the US withdraws its support from international agreements and institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), China largely continues to support the WTO’s work. So far China’s increasing global influence becomes most apparent in the areas of international trade and development banking. The question arises to what extent China fills the gaps that the US leaves behind as it abandons some of its international institutions – or ‘houses’, if you like – that make up the larger architecture.
Addressing the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2018, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed in the Chinese President Xi Jingping’s footsteps from last year’s event to present a clarion call in defence of globalisation, stating that ‘India is an investment in future’.
A few days after the Davos summit, India welcomed the heads of state from ten member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) for its 69th Republic Day celebrations in what marked a break from the usual diplomatic practice of inviting a singular head of state. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, highlighted the essence of ‘shared values, common destiny’ in the India–ASEAN partnership. Despite this historic occasion, a series of developments within its immediate borders have raised question marks on the coherence of India’s engagement to its neighbouring states. Before seeking to understand what these present day challenges are, one first needs to place a historical context on how India moved towards greater regional multilateralism.
In the fourth episode of our interview series, Lynda Iroulo talks to Jingdong Yuan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Listen in, as Yuan gives insight into his thoughts about the WZB, his research on the political economy of dual use-technology, studying China in the global order, and his appreciation for Berlin’s well-insulated apartments.
Find a short transcription of the interview below or listen to the full one here:
Iroulo: What brings you to the WZB and for how long will you be here?
Yuan: I heard about the WZB from one of my colleagues, Professor John Keane, who runs the Sydney Democracy Network. He has very close ties with the WZB, and we have this fellowship where one or two faculty members every year get selected to be a visiting fellow to the WZB and spend a couple of months and do research. It triggered my interest, and I took a look at what the WZB does, and I was quite surprised; this is a vast operation, a few hundred scholars from all over the world working on social sciences. In the past, I tended to go to places that focused on area studies, like Asian studies or China studies, but this is more interdisciplinary with social sciences, and maybe history and humanities as well. I wanted to be part of this fascinating and exciting organization. In particular, the Global Governance unit, which has some sub-research areas that fit my research interest. That is why I applied, and I am very lucky to be selected. Now I am here, spending eight weeks, so, roughly two months.