It seems with major advancements in Chinese space exploration that concerns are raised about the United States falling behind. That most of what the Chinese are trying to do the U.S. accomplished before I was born seems beside the point.
What I think might be of greater concern to those not interested in China maturing as a space power is its efforts at collaboration. Not so much with the U.S., as export controls prevent the use of many American components in Chinese missions, China has not been invited to join the International Space Station, and legislation prevents using NASA money on joint efforts with China. But China has been working with the European Space Agency (ESA). Earlier this week the ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced a number of prospective missions for the two countries to work on (H/T Nature). It’s not the first space mission where the two countries have been involved, but it is the first where the two countries will jointly operate the mission.
I’m not surprised that with Chinese-U.S. space cooperation discouraged on our side, that the Chinese have gone elsewhere to increase their knowledge. As the United States used keeping the Russians engaged as a major selling point of the ISS back in the 1990s, it strikes me as a bit ironic that we seem fit on keeping the Chinese at arm’s length.