China's Long March-2F rocket, carrying the Shenzhou 11 manned spacecraft, blasts off in Jiuquan on Oct. 17. For decades, the United States has watched China's burgeoning space program with apprehension.
Space may be miles above us, but how it is being used -- and by whom -- is becoming increasingly important here on Earth. As of now, the United States leads the world in space exploration and exploitation, but China is determined to narrow the gap. Beijing has set its sights on becoming a major power in space, and in the next two decades it could surpass veterans in the field such as Russia, perhaps even someday rivaling the United States itself.
It may come as little surprise, then, that Washington and Beijing rarely consider each other partners in space. In fact, in some ways the United States' current competition with China is not unlike its Cold War-era space race with the Soviet Union. Today's contest, however, is unfolding in a profoundly different atmosphere. Space is no longer a theater reserved for the world's militaries, and as the skies become more...
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