Yu Tu Moon Landing: Chang'e Shock
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 15, 2013
Summary: In 1957 the Soviet Union's Sputnik became the first man made satellite ever launched into earth orbit. American pundits at the time referred to the domestic reaction as "Sputnik shock." Yesterday, the Chinese mainland's "Chang'e 3" lunar exploration vehicle enabled the "Yu Tu" (Jade Rabbit) lunar rover to make a soft landing on the moon. One might refer to the reaction from some quarters as "Chang'e shock."
Full text below:
In 1957 the Soviet Union's Sputnik became the first man made satellite ever launched into earth orbit. American pundits at the time referred to the domestic reaction as "Sputnik shock." Yesterday, the Chinese mainland's "Chang'e 3" lunar exploration vehicle enabled the "Yu Tu" (Jade Rabbit) lunar rover to make a soft landing on the moon. One might refer to the reaction from some quarters as "Chang'e shock."
Sputnik shock was a turning point in the Cold War. It lit a fire under the US. In 1969, the Apollo mission put a man on the moon. In 1983, President Reagan launched "Star Wars." Today, historians think the space race was one of the primary reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Will the Chinese mainland's "Chang'e shock" transform the Chinese mainland into another unsustainable Soviet Union? Or will the Chinese mainland continue its rise? This is where Chang'e's potential and Sputnik's reality part ways.
Today's Chinese mainland and yesterday's Soviet Union are different in many ways. Consider several examples. One. The Soviet Union's biggest problem was an unsound economy. But globalization saved the Chinese mainland. It has become the world's second largest economy. Living standards have improved accordingly. Two. The Soviet Union was burdened with the leadership of the Eastern Bloc socialist nations. It was eventually crushed beneath the Berlin Wall. The Chinese mainland, by contrast, long ceased "exporting revolution." Three. the Soviet Union had Gorbachev. Today's China is neither reverting to rigid feudalism nor putting old wine in new bottles. It is hard to imagine the appearance of a Gorbachev style leader. Such differences have led to widespread speculation. The Chinese mainlnand is also socialist. But the Chinese mainland and the Soviet Union have taken different paths. Where will they end up? In other words, should one apply stereotypical "China collapse theory" thinking to the Chinese mainland? That is the question.
The Chinese mainland truly has developed a system with "Chinese characteristics." Consider a few examples. One. The authoritarian windfall. Those in power are not afraid to talk the talk and walk the walk. They encounter little resistance to their plans. As a result they dare to imagine, and often succeed. Two. The space program windfall. Its impact has been far reaching, The Sichuan earthquake could not shake the entire nation. Bo Xilai could only shake up Chongqing. Differential development has created a vast hinterland. Three. The population windfall. A large population has mass. Industrial innovation creates wealth. It enables the Chinese mainland to become a global producer as well as a global consumer. It enables the Chinese mainland to become an industrial and commercial hub, with the economies of scale to become relatively self-sufficient. Such a Chinese mainland may lack political rights, but may continue to progress by virtue of economic and social rights. An authoritarian political system may nevertheless be able to make the right economic decisions. If so, can the world really cling to its assumption that "China must inevitably collapse?"
U.S. President Barack Obama referred to the rise of China and India in his 2011 State of the Union Address. He included India only because mentioning China alone would have embarrassed India. Obama said that the rise of China and India has changed the rules of game for the global economy. He said this was a Sputnik moment for the US. Obama's State of the Union Address voiced his concern over the comparative efficiency of Chinese mainland authoritarianism over US democracy. Obama's Sputnik moment might well be renamed the Chang'e moment.
One could expand on Obama's idea. Not only could the Chinese mainland not collapse, its authoritarian rule might be able to make the right decisions, and may survive. If so, how should the world view the Chinese mainland? This may be something anti-Communists are reluctant to consider. But it is a problem the world must face. Refusing to face it, hoping that "China will inevitably collapse" will not help one respond to the rise of the Chinese mainland.
Chang'e and Yu Tu have become world news. Meanwhile, three significant domestic events have taken place. One. Twenty-five provinces are choked by record levels of smog. This is a warning against unbalanced development. Two. News of Zhou Yongkang's arrest has broken. This is a result of authoritarian corruption. Three. The conflict over ADIZs has led to chaos in the East China Sea. This is the result of the end to the Chinese mainland's low profile policy. Beijing's current form of governance is merely a fascist cloak over a socialist body. From one perspective it is enlightened despotism. From another perspective, it is organized crime rent-seeking. This "socialism with Chinese characteristics" differs from the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian people recently smashed statues of Lenin. The Chang'e shock differs from Sputnik shock. Thirty-four years after Sputnik, the Soviet Union imploded. But the Chinese mainland and the world must wonder. What will the Chinese mainland look like 10, 20, or 30 years after the Chang'e shock?
During the Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian eras, the "China collapse theory" formed the backbone of cross-Strait political and economic policy. But today, even the most rabid anti-Communist must have his doubts. Suppose the Chinese mainland does not collapse? Suppose it continues to rise? Can one really continue to use Taiwan independence and opposition to trade in services agreements to oppose Beijing? Or is some alternative needed?
Many may be skeptical about the Chang'e shock. How much substance to it is there? But the world must not imagine that the Chinese mainland will collapse like the Soviet Union. Obama invoked the term Sputnik moment.Today, on Taiwan, this is a Chang'e moment.
2013.12.15 04:21 am