Congressional perspectives on China and its space efforts

Yesterday morning CSIS hosted a discussion on US-China space cooperation with two members of Congress, Reps. Mark Kirk and Rick Larsen, as the featured speakers. One of the more interesting comments made during the event was by Kirk, as he described how the “three tribes that run Washington”, namely the White House, Senate, and House, view China:

I’d characterize the White House view towards China as nuanced and complex. The Senate’s view towards China is at least multifaceted, with some ups and some downs, and the House view towards China is relentlessly negative and highly misinformed.

How misinformed? Kirk later said:

My take on the House of Representatives right now is that if I said that China had a very active manned space program, that would still be news to a lot of my colleagues.

After the event I asked Congressman Larsen who, along with Kirk, co-chairs the U.S.-China Working Group in the House, what they were doing to try and raise the awareness and opinion of China’s space efforts among his colleagues. He said they have several efforts in progress, including some outreach to the Congressional Space Caucus. Had he seen any signs of progress to date? He said there appears to be some talk in support of a common docking adapter that would allow US and Chinese manned spacecraft to dock in orbit, a proposal that emerged from the trip to China that Kirk, Larsen, and Rep. Tom Feeney made in January.

2 comments to Congressional perspectives on China and its space efforts

  • Al Fansome

    Interesting data point Jeff.

    “Technically” the purpose of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was to “test a common docking adaptor”.

    A couple months ago, I suggested here that there was a major political upside for NASA to conduct a repeat of ASTP — but this time between the CEV and a China Shenzou in orbit.

    – Al

  • Jeff,

    Leaving aside the utility of a Sino-American ASTP, it’s probably worth noting that both of the Congressmen at this event have a constituent interest in helping Boeing sell airplanes to China. Kirk may also have Illinois agribusiness reasons to support free trade with China.

    I wish China’s space program was tied to their neo-capitalist revolution, instead of just being a division of the People’s Army.

    – Jim