In an op-ed last week in the Los Angeles Times, former MirCorp CEO Jeffrey Manber argued that the US should allow China to participate in the International Space Station project. Allowing China to cooperate would have practical benefits (another means to access the ISS, another country to help pay for it), as well as political (as an enabler of “frank discussions on strategic space issues” like anti-satellite weapons).
In an essay in today’s issue of The Space Review, Dwayne Day critically examines that proposal. Day is skeptical of some of the claimed advantages of including China in the project, given the lack of flight experience with China’s Shenzhou spacecraft as well as doubts that including China would do much to defray the costs of the existing ISS partners. Day does take note of one feature of Manber’s proposal that has not previously been discussed in past suggestions to include China in the ISS: including China would “moderate the Russians”, in much the same way that the US-China rapprochement during the Nixon years ended up improving US-Soviet relations as well. Just don’t expect anything to happen soon: it’s highly unlikely the Bush Administration will take any steps in this direction during its final year in office. “It will not require another Richard Nixon to improve relations with China,” concludes Day, “but it will require someone other than George W. Bush.”