I have always been intrigued by China and the Chinese, their history, their customs and, above all, their ability to withstand the pains and discomforts of penury.
They work hard under unimaginable conditions and seem to survive, despite the harsh odds stacked against them – and yet maintain their dream of better days.
The China of today is becoming a world power and likely to compete with the West on a scale which was not envisaged a few decades ago. They are now everywhere throughout the globe searching for opportunities, emulating the boldness and skills of a colonising power and investing heavily in infrastructure in Africa, Europe and the Americas. At home, cities like Beijing and Shanghai have risen to equal and, in some cases, surpass anything the West can conjure up. The speed in which this was accomplished defies comprehension.
And now they are aiming to colonise the moon. China has become the first country to land on the moon for thirty-seven years when its unmanned rover touched down last weekend. The Chang’e-3, which has been travelling since 2nd December, landed on a lava plain known as the Bay of Rainbows.
Probes and missiles have been fired at the moon to take readings and throw dust into the atmosphere, but no space programme has attempted to land since the Russians sent a rover to collect soil samples in 1976.
The Chinese claim they are looking for national resources such as rare metals. Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said their scientists were exploring whether solar panels could be installed on the moon to harness the power of the sun through the thinner atmosphere: ‘The moon is full of resources – mainly rare earth elements, titanium, and uranium, which the earth is really short of and these resources can be used without limitation,’ he said.
Chinese officials have already stated that they are keen to send humans to the moon in what would be the first manned lunar missions since the US Apollo programme in the 1960s and 70s. Upon landing, the craft has released Jade Rabbit, a six-wheel lunar rover with four cameras and mechanical digger arms, to collect samples at a depth of almost one hundred feet. The robot’s name comes from a Chinese myth about the pet white rabbit of a goddess, Shang’e, who is said to live on the moon.
Well, you never know. Perhaps the Chinese will find her.
In the meantime, those cynics who underestimate the might of China take heed. The Chinese are coming in force and will make their presence felt in every corner of the globe. Their ancient civilisation bears witness to what they can achieve and, by golly, they will surprise us all over again. Their turn is long overdue!