China’s breakneck economic expansion may be flagging, but the country’s ambitions in space show no signs of slowing down.
Alongside ongoing efforts to rival NASA by placing robotic landers, and eventually astronauts, on the moon and Mars, China’s government is increasingly looking to its burgeoning space sector to rival U.S. companies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk‘s SpaceX, which is targeting March 30 for the latest launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.
Though Chinese space authorities have publicly announced the country’s ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s, President Xi Jinping’s government is also considering ways to direct spending that will push Chinese tech companies toward breakthroughs in downstream technologies like robotics, aerospace, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and other 21st-century technologies.
The majority of China’s space ambitions remain focused on boosting Chinese prestige at home and abroad. But a push within Xi’s government to triple spending on space science as well as the emergence of a small but growing group of privately backed space start-ups suggest that both Chinese industry and government see long-term economic benefits in their investments in space technologies.
That increasing flow of capital toward both China’s state-run and private space-related tech companies could place increased pressure on NASA, and eventually on commercial space companies in the United States and Europe.