China: American Panic over Out-of-Control Rocket Was ‘Fussiness’

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-5 rocket is seen at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China's Hainan Province, Friday, July 17, 2020. China launched its most ambitious Mars mission yet on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in a bold attempt to join the …
Zhang Gaoxiang/Xinhua via AP

Chinese state media on Sunday accused the United States of “fussiness,” “hypocrisy,” and “smears” because U.S. officials worried about the potential damage from the rocket China left tumbling out of control in Earth’s orbit last week. 

Debris from the rocket appears to have landed near the Maldives without causing any damage, an outcome Chinese propagandists absurdly claimed had been “accurately predicted” all along.

NASA criticized the Chinese for “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris” after fiery debris from the 21-ton Long March-5B rocket was seen in the skies above Jordan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

China’s state-run Global Times lashed out at Nelson in one of several hyperventilating editorials published Sunday and Monday, claiming China was always in full command of the rocket’s re-entry. The Global Times quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claiming Nelson and other American officials were hypocritical for lecturing China when U.S. space debris has come down over populated areas in the past.

“We can recall when a US rocket stage re-entered in March at a local farmer’s property, the US media described the scene with rather romantic vocabulary such as ‘comet-like trails,’” Hua sneered. “Some Chinese netizens joked that some US politicians might be forgetful, but the internet remembers. We are willing to work with other countries including the US in the peaceful use of outer space, but we oppose holding a double standard over the matter.”

Hua was referring to a piece of burning debris from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch that came down on a farm in Washington state on March 25. This debris was about five feet long and left a four-inch dent in the ground on impact. The Chinese rocket, on the other hand, weighed 23 tons and hurtled around the Earth for days at high speed before re-entering the atmosphere over the Arabian Sea.

Chinese state media became absolutely obsessed with comparing the two very different launches over the weekend. The Global Times repeatedly published an editorial cartoon accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy for being relatively unconcerned with the SpaceX debris, and spelled the accusation out in detail in a fulminating Sunday editorial:

In the past few days, some US scientists and even NASA have acted against their conscience, describing how “dangerous” the rocket debris is and how “China is failing to meet responsible standards.” The US media has been hyping how the debris was “falling out of control,” as if the behemoth is more likely to hit densely populated areas than the wreckage of rockets launched by the US. This is shameless hype. A few US scientists have participated in discrediting China’s aerospace industry, which is a kind of degradation.

[…]

Through the US’ hype about the Chinese rocket, Chinese people and those in the international community who understand the common sense of space launches once again realize the collective petty-mindedness of some US elites. These people are jealous of China’s rapid progress in space technology. They cannot stand the fact that in several years there will be only Chinese space station in orbit. Some of these people even try to use the noises they made to obstruct and interfere with China’s future intensive launches for the construction of its space station. They criticize China to give vent to their emotions, and at the same time, try to implement their evil plans.

China is faced with the US that is particularly afraid of the progress of others, even though its competitiveness has declined compared to the past. However, Washington still controls some of the loudest “loudspeakers” in the world. These “loudspeakers” can smear China and lead others to do so. They disguise their selfishness and unreasonable demands as some kind of international justice. This is not only a problem for China, but also a challenge for humankind as a whole. 

Another Global Times rant claimed China’s aerospace experts were “surprised” that anyone could think the Long March-5B re-entry was a big deal, while “analysts of foreign affairs” said the hype and hysteria were “an attempt to sabotage China’s space station construction plan” and exposed “their military intentions to track China’s space hardware.”

The Global Times and its “space experts” were bizarrely insistent that because China supposedly knew where the rocket was at all times — a highly debatable claim, since they provided no evidence of such knowledge before it actually came down — then accusations of Chinese responsibility were “false” and “groundless.”

The latter article slipped in another jab at the SpaceX launch, China’s new all-consuming propaganda obsession, courtesy of aerospace magazine editor Wang Ya’nan: “Except for the SpaceX reusable rockets, all remnants from the first and second stages of traditional launch vehicles return to Earth in an uncontrolled manner. And all countries conducting such practice track the falling pieces and calculate their  trajectories as China does.”

The Global Times insisted all criticism of the Chinese launch was merely a doomed effort to “suppress” China’s space program, and perhaps an effort to trick China into divulging information that would help the U.S. improve its anti-missile systems.

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