Tomorrow Chinese astronauts will go spacewalking for the first time. The launch of the Shenzhou-7 spaceship on Thursday was a success, and for the first time in the history of Chinese space exploration, a human crew will spacewalk. This is the first stage in the country's planned development of a space station. The question is, what's China really planning for its space program?We're not just being conspiracy theorists. Chinese-American scientist Quan-Sheng Shu, 68, was recently arrested by the FBI — the probable charge was funneling information to the Chinese space program. So prepare yourselves for a future of eternal space war, with spies and counter-spies and counter-counter-spies.
According to the Times, the Chinese 'naut diet includes "shredded pork sauteed with garlic and grilled beef with spicy sauce." Add to that spicy sauce the news that some Chinese papers were reporting details and quotes from the spacewalk before the astronauts had even taken off, and we're left with even more questions. We must remind ourselves that the stated reason for the Shenzhou-7 spaceship is research, but a dark future may well await.
There's a history of SF imagery in the Chinese space program, as Stefan Landsberger's dramatic recapturing of posters from the period proves. According to Lansberger, these kinds of posters were used to "capture the popular imagination."
All the evidence suggests we need to put these pieces together. Are they The Pattern, or the Order, or do they perhaps point to a third sequel in the National Treasure franchise?
If anything, it's probably the latter, as actual footage of underwater spacewalk trials is practically begging for Nicholas Cage's take-charge, can do attitude. The clues may well be hidden in the science fiction literature of the period. Translations of Jules Verne started the diffusion of Western science fiction into China. You can find versions of Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace and most major SF authors in Chinese bookstores now. As Mara Hvistendahl put it in Seed in 2006:
In the early 90s, China launched an ambitious scientific development program and seized sci-fi as a means of spurring enthusiasm for science. In 1995, State Science and Technology Commission Minister Song Jian proposed, in a widely circulated article, that science-themed literature would reflect well on the state of Chinese science.
The above is from a simulation. Is this a Skrull invasion or the dividing of the launch booster? If you fear an impending space race with China, the counterpoint to our coming destruction may well be the growth of Chinese science fiction. We can hope this small step for China inspires the best the continent of Asia has to offer, such as the Taiwanese City Trilogy.
And if the impeccable plotting of Chang Hsi-Kuo doesn't do it for you, feel free to refer to this alternate history.
An Alternate History of Chinese Science Fiction [No Fear of the Future]
50 Science Fiction Books That Socialists Should Read [Fantastic Metropolis]