Category Archives: China

Half Of The World Meets, European and American Newsmedia Not Interested

Government representatives of more than 3.3 billion people have recently met in Yekaterinburg, Russia, for the first BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) summit (16 June) and the ninth Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’s Heads of State summit (15 June).

One for all major Western anglophone news channels, you’d think? Think again.

The only reason I have learned about it is because Iranian President Ahmadinejad attended the SCO summit in the middle of the election crisis. And the only reason why I remembered to mention it is an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, mysteriously available on the web only in Russian.

What is this sorry episode but another example of how the “free world” is victim of its own propaganda, that depicts a subservient, hapless globe whilst in reality there are powerful people seriously discussing how to contain the USA?

Corrupt Police in Heilongjiang Province, China

For evidence of corruption in Heilongjiang Province, China, look no further than the story of Gao Chuancai.

Obviously there is something at work at present in China that prevents the oppressive regime from imploding upon itself in an outburst of paranoia and red tape. I just wonder what that is.. 

Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang Province

An Olympic Doping Disaster In The Making?

There is something very fishy about doping at the Beijing Olympics this year.

As of now, 4 athletes have tested positives for banned substances. This may look like a positive result, a decisively downward trend after more than a dozen people tested positives at Athens 2004. But in reality, it’s the other way around.

No less than International Olympics chief Jacques Rogge had declared, at the end of July, that the massive anti-doping effort of 2008  was expected to net as much as 40 cheating athletes.

At the current rate, it will be an achievement if 10 doping cases were to be found by the end of the Olympics.

The alternative views, that the worldwide sports movement has finally decided to stop using banning substances, or that cheats are getting caught before going to the Olympics, are in practice beyond ridicule…also because already one of the 4 “Beijing positives” is a Vietnamese girl that everybody believes has taken a banned prescription drug by mistake.

Is nobody else making any mistake in Beijing? Nobody at all?

There are other well-known indicator of “doping fishiness”. Antidoping expert Dick Pound said before the start of the Olympics: “If a bunch of athletes no one has ever heard of show up at the Olympics and win gold medals, that’s going to be the worst thing for China’s reputation“.

And here there is one.

Look also at French swimmer Alain Bernard’s giant upper-body muscles, compared to his competitors. One can even see an oversize vein, like in the bodybuilding competitions of old.

Some experts are starting speaking out, worried that overall, Beijing 2008 will be a setback in the war against doping. But how likely is it that almost everybody has figured out how to avoid detection, and/or almost every testing lab has decided to opt for extreme caution before declaring any sample as “positive”?

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So what’s possibly going on? Everybody knows that doping brings with it embarrassment, especially to the host Country, especially if the athletes getting caught come from the host Country.

On the other hand these are the Olympics where a 14-year-old Chinese girl’s age is “slightly nudged” to become 16 on her passport in order to compete. There would be little to be surprised of if, behind the scenes, “little” positive cases of doping were purposedly “slightly nudged” towards negativeness, especially when the blood samples came from Chinese athletes.

in order to preserve harmony, then, everybody’s “little” positive cases would be treated the same way, with a bunch of unlucky people singled out just to keep up appearances. The result? Widespread dishonesty and hypocrisy in a disaster of Olympic proportions indeed, with doping the one thing everybody knows about and nobody dares to talk of.

For the sake of honesty and fair competing, it certainly does look like the right time to accept clean, transparent, safe doping in sports: just as a few years ago, professionalism was finally allowed to surface, after its own long, suffered history of Olympic dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Quantitative Effects of Sichuan Earthquake on Tibet Reporting

The Sichuan quake has partially removed Tibet from the news, in a quantitatively quite relevant way.

Articles on Tibet in the New York Times archives:

From 1/Jan/8 to 14/Jun/8: 295 articles (1.79/day)

1/Jan-10/Mar (the day before the Tibetan riots): 31 (0.45/day)

11/Mar-11/May (the day before the Sichuan quake): 212 (3.48/day)

12/May-14/Jun: 52 (1.58/day, that is 55% fewer)

More numbers for those thinking the above is just what happens with “old news”:

11/Mar-11/Apr: 126 (4.06/day)
12/Apr-11/May: 87 (3/day)

So it is true: the quake has halved the news reporting from Tibet, from one day to the next.

World attention on Tibet is in the meanwhile decreasing. During June, there has been just 1.49 articles/day on Tibet.

Pro-Tibet or Anti-China? The Sign of the Dead

If it is true that solidarity to the Chinese Government regarding the Sichuan earthquake cannot be used as an excuse to forget the repression in Tibet, it is also true that many “pro-Tibet” demonstrations are nothing to be proud of, as they disregard the recent, enormous disaster in the Sichuan region.

I hope nobody believes that natural disasters have no political consequences.

Simply, in the absence of the slightest effort to understand what is happening in China, the risk is to become broken records, absolute strangers to the reality on the ground. Is it really that difficult to add to “pro-Tibet” events something like a candle in memory of all those deaths?

And no, I am not suggesting to organize funeral vigills. I only wish that when people talk about Tibet and China, a corner of the event would be dedicated to the “earthquake dead”. Missing that, there is little chance (and, may I dare say, little right) to lecture the Chinese Govenment on Tibetan or other matters.

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I have put the questions above to various people but received very few answers so far. I have the uncomfortable feeling that at the end of the day, few or none really care about “real Tibet”, as few or none are interested in understanding the political and social consequences of the 2008 earthquake in China.

They who can turn their eyes away from 70,000 dead, 370,000 injured and 17,000 missing people, they can turn their eyes away from anything.

Instead of flying Tibetan standards, perhaps it would be more honest if “pro-Tibet” demonstrators burned Chinese flags.

Don’t Stop Digging

After an earthquake, and after the quake (or perhaps, the quakes) in China this month, talks of ”too much time has passed for anybody to be still alive” chillingly keep coming back.

It is actually known since the Messina earthquake of 1908 if not longer, that humans can survive well beyond what we can imagine. Hope should never die, or at least for three weeks. Certainly not after just a handful of days.

Dig, dig, dig: nothing else makes sense, right now.

About Smart Chinese Leaders

…or “What is a Communist Party doing in a place where popular opinion is so important?”

China’s response to quake is unusually open“, says the International Herald Tribune. And that’s very clear from the pictures distributed hours after the disaster:


Prime minister Wen Jiabao of China looking at a map of Sichuan province on his flight to the earthquake’s epicenter in Wenchuan county. (Source: Xinhua News Agency via the AFP)


Premier Wen Jiabao, center, and other government officials on the plane to Chengdu to manage disaster relief. (Source: Xinhua)

Why would Wen Jiabao dedicate any time to pictures? Evidently, popular opinion in China is very, very important. Some sort of paradox, in a society where the Communist Party is in theory in charge.

Evidence of Anti-China Reporting Bias in the IHT/NYT

In “Chinese students shed restraint in America” (IHT, Apr 30, published as “Chinese students in U.S. fight image of their home” on the NYT on Apr 29) Chou Wu, a Chinese doctorate student in the USA, is quoted by Shaila Dewan (in co-operation with Michael Anti) as saying that “Western media is even more biased than Chinese media“.

Ironically, in order to find evidence for his claim, Mr Wu should look no further than Ms Dewan’s article!

In fact, after reporting that Chinese students in America believe to be “still neglected or misunderstood (by Western news media) as either brainwashed or manipulated by the (Chinese) government“, Ms Dewan dutifully proceeds to portray those same students as…brainwashed and/or manipulated.

They are described as authoritarian, zealot nationalist prone to threats against Tibetans, also because “demonstrators couldintend to return home (too)”.

Ms Dewan even leaves the last word to Lionel Jensen, of the University of Notre Dame, IN, stating that Chinese students “dont’ ask” if Tibetans wanted the “aggressive modernization” brought by China to Tibet.

That doesn’t bode well for the impartiality of the article: a feeling that is confirmed when we are told that Chinese students’ “handouts on Tibet and Chinacontained a jumble of abbreviated history, slogans and maps with little context“.

Is “jumble” the appropriate word for a reporting piece? Methinks there is too much contempt for the report’s subject showing there.

We have to take Ms Dewan’s word for her judgements, as the only detail provided concerns “a chart showing infant mortality in Tibet had plummeted since 1951” (a positive thing if there ever was any). Alas, we are told, the students “did not provide any means for comparison with mortality rates in China or other countries“.

Too bad one is left none the wiser, as Ms Dewan herself provides no such a comparison either.

Once upon a time newspapers clearly separated news from news analysis. And journalists tried to report impartially. I know, that may be the stuff of Utopia nowadays, but is nobody trying anymore?

Is China’s Authoritarian Capitalism Better Than Liberal Democracy?

(No it isn’t: just like trying to earn a living by gambling is not better than having a salary, even if potential returns are much higher)

Is China’s authoritarian capitalism better than liberal democracy (as “the condition and motor of economic development“)? That’s more or less what Slavoj Žižek, co-Director of the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College, asks in the Letters section of the London Review of Books (Vol. 30 No. 8 · Cover date: 24 April 2008), at the end of a singularly even-handed description of the Tibet-China relationship (that by the way only victims of their respective propaganda machines will believe to be a story of good guys vs. bad guys).

Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that democracy can only ‘catch on’ in economically developed countries: if developing countries are ‘prematurely democratised’, the result is a populism that ends in economic catastrophe and political despotism. No wonder that today’s economically most successful Third World countries (Taiwan, South Korea, Chile) embraced full democracy only after a period of authoritarian rule.

Following this path, the Chinese used unencumbered authoritarian state power to control the social costs of the transition to capitalism. The weird combination of capitalism and Communist rule proved not to be a ridiculous paradox, but a blessing. China has developed so fast not in spite of authoritarian Communist rule, but because of it.

There are a few i’s to dot, and t’s to cross in Mr Žižek’s discourse. First of all, Taiwan, South Korea and Chile became “today’s economically most successful Third World countriesafter getting rid of “authoritarian rule“. So from those examples it appears that dictatorship may gestate a successful economy, but more often than not “Authoritarian Rule” transforms itself into a suffocating mother, if not an evil stepmother.

More importantly, China itself is in a sense only the last manifestation of a truism: an (economically) enlightened dictatorship can be much more efficient than the collection of dirty tricks known as democracy. Voltaire likely believed in that, just as Plato and countless others, and even if it does sound like an elitist concept, it is obvious nevertheless. An intelligent, caring, politically and economically wise Prince can decide for the best of everybody in minutes, rather than wasting months trying to convince, negotiate, win over people, perhaps in interminable parliamentary committees.

Such a Prince can also guarantee decades of good governance, truly a blessing for his (or her) people.

There is a small matter though. Say, your Prince is Octavianus Augustus and peace and prosperity is for everybody. Then comes Tiberius, and things start out ok: only, to worsen with his increasing paranoia.

Then you’re stuck with Caligula. And Nero is not too far away either.

Things haven’t changed much in the intevening 2,000 years. The trouble with authoritarian rule, hence with authoritarian capitalism, is not its ability to generate prosperity: rather, its perfectly equivalent capacity to degenerate, quickly because almost without control, thereby hampering the growth of that prosperity if not killing it off entirely.

Speaking the language of the financial world: just like a new CEO can resurrect or destroy a Company, so a despotic Prince (or committee of Princes, aka the “Communist Party of China Central Committee“) is a recipe for increased earning opportunities and, for the very same reasons, for an increase in risk.

And that’s something that should definitely be factored in in any judgement about what to choose as “the condition and motor of economic development“. After all, who wants to continuously gamble all of one’s wealth?

Even if the Chinese Government is paranoid…

…it doesn’t mean nobody is “out to get them”…

Serge Schmemann’s otherwise insightful comments on the parallels between Moscow 1980 and Beijing 2008 (“Olympic flames, then and now“, IHT, Apr 28) lacks balance about the inspiration of so many anti-China protests around the world.

This being the Age of the NGOs, there definitely is no shortage of people determined to use a major media event like the Olympics to support this or that issue. Furthermore, there are many that see economic powerhouse China as the enemy, a threat to their jobs and livelihoods.

And so even if the Chinese leadership is clearly showing signs of obtuse paranoia about the Dalai Lama, Hu Jia and pretty much everything else, they may very well still be right in denouncing the protests as maneuvered by a coalition of “anti-China forces behind the curtain”, hitting the right buttons in order to “stir up genuine anger” in “people in free societies”.

Schnemann casts also doubts on the effectiveness of “quiet diplomacy”. Perhaps he is right. One thing is certain, though: you don’t deal with a paranoid…by going out to get him.

Censored! (by Anti-Censorship Website…)

Does the company of dogs inspire one to bark? That’s what looks like happening at anti-China, (allegedly) anti-censorship blog “Under the Jacaranda Tree“.

Months, years perhaps of fighting against the censorship perpetrated by what is after all still a dictatorship, have taught “Jacaranda”‘s authors “Ned Kelly” and “Catherine A Young” that the way to deal with criticism is by censoring the offending text, and by banning its author.

(that is…me!)

With friends like these, the Tibetan and journalist Hu Jia‘s plights are unlikely to get any better for the foreseeable future.

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What has happened then? While researching my “Tibet and the Olympics: Remember Jin Jing” blog on Apr 22, I have stumbled upon Jacaranda’s “Bart Simpson and Jin Jing’s spin-doctors” where Mr Kelly strongly suggests that the whole Jin Jing Olympic torch relay incident has been staged, and promises “further analysis of more evidence surrounding the incident”.

I then added to their blog this comment (visible at “Under the Jacaranda Tree: Bart Simpson and Jin Jing’s spin-doctors“) about such “further analysis”:

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter any longer. The pictures are out there. There are two assaults, not just one. Ms. Jin’s facial expression is that of a person in distress, or an unexpectedly great actress.

So obscure photographic analysis and talks about the behaviour of foreigners marching towards a demo in Paris, won’t do the trick. You may as well try to stop a tsunami with a teaspoon.

Evidently I am unable to read my own words, because they look like a straight and mild statement of personal opinion to me…yet either Mr Kelly or Ms Young took very and grave offence at them. And so despite claims of technical issues with their website, they posted a new blog on Apr 23: “Why we have banned a recent commenter“.

Don’t waste time in looking for that blog now, as it has been deleted: not early enough to disappear from my WordPress dashboard though, with the text

[…] MEANWHILE, we received a comment from this OBVIOUSLY MAINLAND CHINESE W*NK*R! […]

(without the *’s) linking to my “Maurizio’s Testimonials” page. In the meanwhile, my comment did not pass their web site moderation. Still it has not been published on “Jacaranda”, despite a second attempt to submit it.

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Based on the above, this can be said about Ned Kelly and/or Catherine A Young, the authors of the blog “Under the Jacaranda Tree”:

(1) They are so full of anti-Chinese anger, they write blogs of hate with little or zero critical thinking (I mean…leaving aside accusations of autoeroticism 8-), who can even think that I am “obviously mainland Chinese” when my pictures are all over the place?)

(2) They are so full of themselves and of their redeeming crusade to save the world against evil Beijing, they cannot tolerate the mildest form of dissent, launching themselves in verbally violent, frankly unjustified fits against the dissenter, whose words are censored and whose very name is banned from their site (sadly, this is exactly the behaviour of the Chinese government)

(3) At some point, they must have realized the absolute idiocy of their “W*NK*R” blog, removing it in the hope no-one would notice (thus demonstrating little familiarity with the ways of blogging, backtracking and WordPress)

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Mr Kelly and Ms Young know that I know, because I added some reference in my second commenting attempt (remember, they have censored that one too). They also know how to contact me (all it takes is a comment to my website).

A word of apology, and removal of the censorship, will make a huge difference: I am a regular guy expressing his sometimes flawed, other times not-so-flawed thoughts. The “sin”, rather than Onan’s, seems to be my desire for independent thought (independent, that is, from Mr Kelly’s and Ms Young’s…)

Yet it is worrying that either or both of them could so quickly think of me as “obviously mainland Chinese”. In the absence of any reply, one will have to agree with those that believe that behind the pro-Tibet campaign, there lies the spectre of anti-Chinese “post-racist” sentiments.

Tibet and the Olympics: Remember Jin Jing

The author of EastWestSouthNorth asks: whose PR have been a disaster in these times of Olympic torch protests?

Well, the answer is easy: not the Chinese Government’s, steadily growing in self-confidence and basking in the reflected glory of Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound smiling Chinese Paralympic girl athlete and cancer survivor, holding on to the torch “for dear life” against not just one, but two physical assaults in Paris.

Whatever the “cause” behind, I have felt uneasy from the beginning, seeing the Olympic torch relays become occasions for violent confrontations, even if in the form of “peacefully” crossing the path of the bearers. These pictures have convinced me further:

Protests may and will continue: but after the Jin Jing’s incident, they have become worse than pointless. For all intents and purposes, all future linkage of the Tibet problem with the Beijing Olympics will more likely than not simply further the cause of Chinese nationalism against the rest of the world, Tibetans included.

NOTE: There are people out there claiming to possess evidence demonstrating that the incidents have been staged. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter any longer. The pictures are out there. There are two assaults, not just one. Ms. Jin’s facial expression is that of a person in distress, or an unexpectedly great actress.

So obscure photographic analysis and talks about the behaviour of foreigners marching towards a demo in Paris, won’t do the trick. Anybody not believing in Ms. Jin’s ordeal, may as well try to stop a tsunami with a teaspoon.

Tibet’s Unrest A Failure for the Dalai Lama and President Hu Jintao

The March 2008 “unrest” in Tibet has managed to net two big political victims: Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.

a. The Dalai Lama

Either the Dalai Lama is behind the rebellion, or he is not.

If he is, it’s a big failure for decades of his nonviolent struggle, some 49 years after leading one way or another the wrongly-timed, poorly opportunistic 1959 uprising that lead him into exile.

If he is not (and personally, I think that’s the case), it means he’s been sidelined (check his threat to resign against escalating violence). That is, the Tibetans are not all behind him: and so, as much as he is popular in the West, the World needs to identify more interlocutors to keep a meaningful contact with the people of Tibet.

b. President Hu Jintao

Even more than the Dalai Lama’s, the biggest failure of all is a personal one, and concerns Chinese President Hu Jintao’s.

First he was Party Secretary in Tibet for a while: however protected and privileged his lifestyle must have been at the time, and even if he came to distrust and despise the region and the people, as rumors have it, Hu must have learnt a thing of two about Tibet. Now, as Paramount Leader, President, General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Hu has been in charge of getting the whole country ready for the Olympics.

True, Hu even tried to prevent troubles by sending additional security personnel. But still: when the troubles happened (and they happened when most expected: on an anniversary, a few months before the Olympics), Hu’s only answer was to kill, brutalize, arrest, deport, in an incredibly bad P.R. move compounded by an unhealthy, improbable fixation for fantastic machinations by the Dalai Lama, a robed guy in Dharamsala pretending nonviolence for decades but now single-handedly capable of eliciting problems for the whole of China.

Under Hu’s (in-)capable hands, China has been lead into looking foolish, unable to prepare, unable to prevent civil unrest, violent, trigger-happy against “its own” people, unable to defend the ethnic Chinese Han apparently victims of the Tibetans’ anger, unable to prevent the news from leaking to the outside world, blood-splattered in front of hundreds of millions of its customers around the world a few weeks before the Olympics and ready to be criticized and ostracized by all those looking for an excuse for protectionism.

All of this, a few days after announcing a clampdown on Uighur’s terrorists that appears more and more either fiction or embellished reality.

Is this what Hu Jintao had in mind when presenting his political philosophy of “Harmonious Society” and “Peaceful Development“? Hopefully not…but unfortunately, his does look like “Fairweather Leadership“.

Unless something big happens during the next few months, one shouldn’t be surprised to find Hu in well-earned retirement quite soon.

Pro-Tibet, With Both Eyes Wide Open

It’s obviously a big issue, when Police and the Army shoot against unarmed civilians, and beat schoolchildren during their free time. But the Tibet situation is complex: sure, more complex than Burma’s of some months ago.

The Burmese monks rebelled against the umpteenth torment on the part of the Military Junta. The Tibet revolt seems planned instead in order to coincide with the 20th anniversary of another one, risking embarrassment for the Beijing Government during what was meant to be a joyful prelude to the Olympic Games of August 2008.

There was in fact nearly the absolute certainty that the Chinese “security forces” would react brutally: indeed, if the dead total to tens or hundreds, they will be much fewer in past repressions. And those “security forces” act just as brutally in other parts of China…

Also, the strong aversion for all thing Tibet by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jin Tao, are well known, stemming from his stint as Party Secretary in Lhasa: whose climate, and whose people he just never managed to bear.

The history itself of the relationships between communist China and the current Dalai Lama is not very simple. It could indeed be argued that his hastened departure after the unwise rebellion by the Tibetan nobility in 1956-1959 has coincided with the liberation of large numbers of people from serfdom. Finally, just to provide an example of all the issues that seldom surface, the Chinese Government is obviously determined not to let Tibet end up like Mongolia, that managed to free itself thanks to Soviet support whilst China went from one civil war to another during the first half of the XX Century.

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Therefore, even if there is criminal repression going on at this moment, we must ask why it has been evoked/provoked right now with a rebellion and civil disorders. Who wanted to verify if the People’s Liberation Army would have avoided the use of force or not? And why… that is, what ever will the medium/long term Tibetan strategy?

If we do not know how to answer these questions, we can only pronounce the usual appeals to calm and moderation: assisting as spectators to the renewed drama in the destructive relationship between the central Government and the aboriginal Tibetan population.

And for the Chinese Government there is a clear, logical strategy: repress, without exaggerating too much. At the end of the day, just a media-management issue.

China and the BBC Warming Bias

Shameless self-promotion of my “China and the BBC Warming Bias” blog over at the “Omniclimate – The Unbearable Nakedness of CLIMATE CHANGE” site, in which I compare the BBC attitude towards reporting heatwaves vs snowstorms.

Very shortly:

July 2002: Chinese heatwave is caused by “the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures

One year ago: Warm, dry weather in north China “linked to climate change“ (page is chock-full of climate change links)

Today: “China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades” (not one climate change link in sight)

They didn’t even care to mention that severe snowstorms have affected the very areas that were experiencing “climate-change-related” drought last year…

For more thoughts on the AGW bias at the BBC:

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/bbc-the-editors-no-line/

http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/why-is-the-bbc-biased-against-climate-change-sceptics/

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/letter-to-the-bbc-climate-news-bias-china-vs-argentina/

The silliness of boycotting the Beijing Olympics

A serious effort to use the Olympics to promote freedoms in China would have started in 2001, as soon as Beijing had been selected, and would have continued relentless since.

Seven years of campaigning would have surely achieved something.

A boycott at this late stage would instead be mainly a marketing gimmick: a bit like with those NGOs that target Nike for harsh labour conditions, but only Nike, because their target is getting their names in the news rather than actually improving anybody’s life.

There is already an example showing the way. If Jesse Owens had boycotted the Nazi Olympics of 1936, who would have embarassed Hitler? And so people wanting to make a statement about China better have the courage to do it in Beijing itself.

Return to the Moon – a Guessing Game

It was refreshing to see Dwayne A. Day start his “Outpost on a desolate land” article with pragmatic words about calendar slippages in NASA’s return to the moon (on the British Interplanetary Society’s “Spaceflight” magazine, May 2007).

One has just to look at the history of the Space Shuttle and then the International Space Station, compared to the Apollo project, to understand that big space projects without fixed deadlines will cost a lot more than anticipated, and achieve (much later) a lot less.

Some say that’s the way Governments work.

Is there perhaps a case for launching a “Moon Landing” competition, with a prize for whomever will guess the date of the “seventh American landing” (and another for the “first Chinese landing”)?

My entries are the following:

a. Without another Space Race, NASA will finally land again on the Moon on July 11, 2069 (mostly, to avoid feeling ashamed of themselves)

b. With a Space Race with the Chinese, American astronauts will walk on the Moon around July 11, 2029

c. Chinese taikonauts, if things get serious, will reach the Moon around July 2027

Nothing to be enthusiastic about, but what’s the point of deluding ourselves into believing that things will be any faster?

Unless there is some major breakthrough in commercial space activities beyond LEO…