Space Mission Sparks Nationalism

China's netizens react with pride to news of a successful space docking mission.

dockingcontrol-305.jpg Chinese scientists monitor the docking of the Tiangong-1 and the Shenzhou-8 in Gansu province, Nov. 3, 2011.

Beijing's space program took a leap forward on Thursday with the docking of two spacecraft in orbit around the Earth, official media reported.

The successful docking of the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft and its space lab module Tiangong-1 in the early hours of Thursday morning will pave the way for a manned space station, officials announced.

Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space program, told reporters that construction would begin on a manned space lab and space station following the completion of two further docking missions in 2012.

The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, which means "Heavenly Palace" in Chinese, shot into space from a launch center in remote Gansu province aboard the Long March 2F rocket on Sept. 29.

Space analysts say Tiangong is an intermediate program, with more laboratories expected to be launched to test further technology which could be used aboard a space station.

China's final space station is expected to eclipse the Tiangong-1 in terms of size, performance and achievements.

Online nationalism

The success of the mission sparked a flurry of national pride among Chinese netizens.

"Did you hear that the Shenzhou-8 docked with the Tiangong?" posted @duhengfangzhi. "Congratulations."

"Our space capability has improved with the launch of the Shenzhou-8," wrote Beijing-based market guru Han Zhiguo on the microblogging platform Sina Weibo, where his account has more than 3.7 million followers.

“And yet, we have been basically carved up in the matter of the South China Sea," he wrote, referring to recent maritime disputes around two oil-rich island chains, which are claimed by China and several neighbors.

China has underlined its "indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea, saying its claims stretch back at least to the 1930s, when official maps from Beijing contained the whole sea as Chinese territory.

Han's verified post garnered hundreds of comments and was reposted more than 1,000 times by Thursday morning.

"How much has China lost in territorial discussions in the past few years?" Han wrote, to the apparent agreement of many users.

User no. 1115353157 commented: "In territorial disputes, there is no discussion, only war. Well said!"


Presidential congratulations

The news comes as President Hu Jintao attends the G20 leadership summit in Cannes amid hopes that China can help the euro-zone out of its worsening debt crisis.

Hu sent a congratulatory message on the successful maneuver, which was completed at 1:35 a.m. Thursday, about 213 miles (343 kilometers) above earth, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Breakthroughs in and acquisition of space docking technologies are vital to the three-phase development strategy of our manned space program," Hu was quoted as saying.

China has become the third country after the United States and Russia to master space-docking technology, which is crucial to the operation of a space station and manned missions.

Reported by Luisetta Mudie.


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Nov 20, 2011 11:34 PM

The "angry-youth" ultra-nationalist warmongering comments about the South China Sea issues are reminiscent of Japanese militarist hotheads during the early Showa period. Merely because a Chinese cartographer drew a huge tongue of Chinese "territory" hanging down from Hainan Island all the way to the shores of Vietnam, Borneo, and the Philippines doesn't mean that the entirety of the South China Sea has always belonged to China.