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How serious is China's challenge to America's technology lead? Over the
New Year's weekend, a pair of NASA spacecraft arrived back in the US from the
first mission devoted to studying lunar gravity. America had established its
dominance in the space race in July 1969 when the first humans landed on the
lunar surface from Apollo 11 and days before last week's return of the NASA
vehicles, China announced an ambitious five-year plan for space exploration that
would move China closer to becoming a major rival at a time when the American
program is in retreat.
Chinese in the next decade may become the first humans to land
on the moon since Apollo 17 astronauts descended onto the Sea of Serenity in
1972. President George W. Bush had called on NASA to return to the moon by 2020.
President Obama canceled that program and now wants the agency to send
astronauts to an asteroid. The Soviets had triggered the Space race by the
launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 but Russia could not sell one consumer
product in the West. China today is a much more serious rival.
North American, European, Japanese, and Korean manufacturing multinationals
(MNCs) rightly fear that they may find themselves launching rivals to their own
market position when they weigh access to the vast Chinese market against
technology acquisition and management imitation on the part of Chinese partners
and other indigenous competitors. Bringing in new technology to gain access to
the Chinese market - - whether for domestic market penetration or as a base for
exports - - may therefore often appear to individual foreign
multinationals as making a Faustian bargain with the devil...
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