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China: Space Missions or Social Development?

On June 16, 2012, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-9 capsule, the country's fourth manned space mission. In order to celebrate this national feat, Chinese portal website Sina Weibo, has invited netizens to “write letters to the Shenzhou 9 capsule”. However, some have taken this opportunity to criticize excessive spending on a space mission, while the country is neglecting its basic social needs.

Artist Ah Ping's cartoon on the subject has been shared widely on Sina Weibo. As explained by the China Media Project, the cartoon shows:

Artist Ah Ping's cartoon

Artist Ah Ping's cartoon

a bedraggled teacher in a clearly dilapidated rural school excitedly explains to his students that the successful launch of Shenzhou-9 is a victory for China, even as the students’ own condition tells the story of another China left behind. The teacher holds up a copy of People’s Daily and says: “With the successful launch of Shenzhou-9, our mother country’s space endeavors have taken a giant leap forward. I’d like all of you students to write a commentary about this!”

The sentiment of the cartoon is echoed by many netizens who have pointed out that the space mission is far easier than solving social problems in China [zh]:

@我朝有点威武:神九发射再次证明,解决贫困失学儿童问题,全民医保养老等有关民生的大事比登天还难

@我朝有点威武:The launching of the Shenzhou-9 capsule has proven again, that social issues such as education and healthcare for all are far more difficult to tackle than reaching the sky

tweetypie: #给神九写封信#上天之后请问还逼人堕胎不?请问酸奶还用皮鞋做不?请问牛奶能放心喝了不?请问孩子们有校车坐了不?请问吃喝还公款不?请问城管还打人不?如果答案是“不”,那么,上个屁的天呀!为百姓做点实事真的有这么难么???

tweetypie: After it [the capsule] reaches the sky, will forced abortions be stopped? Can we feel safe drinking milk? Will kids have their school buses? Will government officials stop their extravagant spending of taxpayers’ money? Will chengguan [City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau] stop beating up people? If the answers are no, what's the use of reaching the sky? Is it that difficult for you to do something for ordinary people?

@坐在村口的小妖:#给神九写封信# 校车不安全,动车不安全,骑个自行车也不安全,赶紧量产了神舟吧,以后就都安全了

@坐在村口的小妖:The school buses are not safe, high speed trains are not safe, even bicycles are not safe. The ultimate solution to the safety problem is to produce more Shenzhou capsules

The news about the launch of the Shenzhou-9 capsule coincided with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's delivery of her Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, Norway. On Twitter, most information activists believed that national glory should be built upon people's rights rather than space missions. Dissident blogger Wen Yunchao points out [zh]:

@wenyunchao: 混微博的,为神九上天激动;混推特的,为昂山素季感动;这就是区别。

@wenyunchao: People who hang around in Weibo are excited about Shenzhou-9 while people who hang around in Twitter are touched by Aung San Suu Kyi

Tibetan dissent writer Degewa also raises her political concerns by retweeting a Tibetan microblog [zh]:

‏@degewa: 转藏人微博:神九上天告诉我们,藏人去拉萨的路比登天还难。

@degewa: retweet Tibetan microblog: Shenzhou-9 tells us that the path for Tibetans to Lhasa is more difficult than reaching the sky.

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