Chiao: Deepen U.S., China Cooperation in Space

Former NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao makes the case for space cooperation between the United States and China on his blog.

“It makes sense politically and programmatically to cooperate with China, in all areas. Space would be a good place to symbolically signal such a shift in policy. The United States did this with Russia in the early 1990’s. At the time, as a skeptic, I didn’t see the point of cooperating with our former enemy and I objected to using our nation’s space program as a foreign policy tool. I thought that the Russians were technically backward. Having grown up during the Cold War, I “knew” these things to be true. It was not until I started training for Expedition 10, that I came to respect the Russians, their technology and their culture. I began to understand the benefits of using U.S. assets and programs to further political friendship through cooperation.

“There have been arguments that cooperation in space with China would benefit their missile and weapon capability. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is nothing in manned space cooperation that would make a ballistic missile more accurate, or a nuclear warhead more powerful. In fact, trying to isolate China might motivate them to further develop their own technology…

“China is emerging as a true world power, economically and technically. Does it make more sense for the United States to engage China, or to try to keep China at arm’s length? I believe that the answer is obvious. It is important to take the global view. Isolationism has been long obsolete. One good way to deal with an adversary is to find common and mutually beneficial areas of cooperation, and turn that adversary into a friend.”