The two countries are taking advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a short journey, with the US spacecraft due to lift off on July 30.
The Chinese mission is named Tianwen-1 (“Questions to Heaven”) — a nod to a classical poem that has verses about the cosmos.
Engineers and other employees cheered at the launch site on the southern island of Hainan as it lifted off into blue sky aboard a Long March 5 — China’s biggest space rocket.
Site commander Zhang Xueyu declared the mission a success on state broadcaster CCTV.
The five-tonne Tianwen-1 is expected to arrive in February 2021 after a seven-month, 55-million-kilometre (34-million-mile) voyage.
The mission includes a Mars orbiter, a lander and a rover that will study the planet’s soil.
“As a first try for China, I don’t expect it to do anything significant beyond what the US has already done,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
It is a crowded field. The United Arab Emirates launched a probe on Monday that will orbit Mars once it reaches the Red Planet.
But the race to watch is between the United States and China, which has worked furiously to try and match Washington’s supremacy in space.
NASA, the American space agency, has already sent four rovers to Mars since the late 1990s.
The next one, Perseverance, is an SUV-sized vehicle that will look for signs of ancient microbial life, and gather rock and soil samples with the goal of bringing them back to Earth on another mission in 2031.
Tianwen-1 is “broadly comparable to Viking in its scope and ambition”, said McDowell, referring to NASA’s Mars landing missions in 1975-1976.
After watching the United States and the Soviet Union lead the way during the Cold War, China has poured billions of dollars into its military-led space programme.
“China joining (the Mars race) will change the situation dominated by the US for half a century,” said Chen Lan, an independent analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, which specialises in China’s space programme.
China has made huge strides in the past decade, sending a human into space in 2003.
The Asian powerhouse has laid the groundwork to assemble a space station by 2022 and gain a permanent foothold in Earth orbit.
China has already sent two rovers to the Moon. With the second, China became the first country to make a successful soft landing on the far side.
The Moon missions gave China experience in operating spacecraft beyond Earth orbit, but Mars is another story.
The much greater distance means “a bigger light travel time, so you have to do things more slowly as the radio signal round trip time is large,” said McDowell.
It also means “you need a more sensitive ground station on Earth because the signals will be much fainter,” he added, noting that there is a greater risk of failure.
China has upgraded its monitoring stations in the far-western Xinjiang region and northeastern Heilongjiang province to meet the Mars mission requirements, state news agency Xinhua reported last week.
The majority of the dozens of missions sent by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and India to Mars since 1960 ended in failure.
Tianwen-1 is not China’s first attempt to go to Mars.
A previous mission with Russia in 2011 ended prematurely as the launch failed.
Now, Beijing is trying on its own.
“As long as (Tianwen) safely lands on the Martian surface and sends back the first image, the mission will… be a big success,” Chen said.
What We Learned From The 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit
The 2020 G20 Leaders’ Summit formally concluded on November 22, bringing into view a series of multilateral commitments and collective interventions aimed at breaking ground during the pandemic, and in its immediate aftermath – all for a world in need.
Leaders expressed their collective determination to strengthen COVID-19 vaccine distribution channels and production capacities, extend social protection guarantees to low-income countries, cement crucial debt-relief extensions, and communicate their “highest possible ambition” under the Paris Accord.
On the question of navigating the pandemic collectively, the G20 correctly indicates that the “unprecedented” financial and humanitarian costs can be best challenged through an even stronger focus on COVID-19 related health, economic, and social exigencies faced by developing countries at present.
More importantly, leaders render this diagnosis tangible by aligning their support with key collaborative efforts – notably the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative and its COVAX facility – and zeroing in on swift, organized financial support for developing economies.
Nearly four dozen countries have already requested debt relief under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), equaling some $5.7 billion in critical debt service deferral for this year alone.
It is here that the G20’s latest decision to endorse “The Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI” extends relief timelines to mid-2021, consistent with the deteriorating economic outlooks of numerous low-income countries that may face challenges beyond a set timeline.
In a welcome move, finance officials from all 20 states will continue to monitor global economic behavior into the next year, and determine whether further extension of DSSI debt freeze merits consideration.
The logo of Group of Twenty (G20) being projected at a historic site in Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 20, 2020. /Xinhua
Therefore, the G20’s demonstrated desire to internationalize economic recovery prospects, instead of confining them within its own territorial bounds, signifies its commitment to equitable global recovery.
Interestingly, part of that growth also owes to the effective and timely distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, as well as enduring partnerships that help prepare against future infectious and non-communicable diseases.
The G20’s embrace of its newly established Global Innovation Hub for Improving Value in Health is therefore a step in the right direction. The Hub serves as a dedicated platform for knowledge sharing that positions itself as a gateway for better Universal Health Coverage across countries.
It seeks to accomplish this goal by collecting evidence-informed expertise, and determine which health policies nations should fund, whether these health interventions reflect that country’s actual needs, and how financial risks to a given populace are best minimized.
Building on prior efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Hub could play a key role in mainstreaming pandemic preparedness expertise and form a valuable front against future outbreaks.
Given pronounced contrasts between developed and developing countries in terms of income equality, education access, and living standards, it is only logical for the post-pandemic growth vision to identify as truly sustainable and inclusive.
G20 leaders offered an array of policy insights to realizing this ambition, including the sustainable integration of less developed economies into the global trading system – a point of reflection ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reforms.
As far as a result-yielding framework for post-pandemic growth goes, Chinese President Xi Jinping demonstrated all-important focus on implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG).
The agenda, significant to narrowing the “North-South gap,” does not necessarily limit headway on inclusive growth to the turn of the decade. China’s accelerated gains against absolute poverty – nearly a decade ahead of the 2030 Agenda schedule – is evidence that the conditions for achieving such sustainable growth can evolve with leadership imperatives, especially during the pandemic.
The G20 offered a clear conception of some of its own such imperatives, led by the 2020 Financial Inclusion Plan, which will serve as a catalyst for preexisting partnerships that help countries implement their financial inclusion SDGs for the next three years.
On climate, governments, civil societies, environmental activists, as well as broader coalitions for dedicated change may find plenty to seek comfort in. The G20 employed international cooperation as its lens to reiterate the disclosure of Member States’ “long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” in 2020, and encouraged updates to countries’ highest possible “nationally determined contributions” under the Paris Accord.
By taking climate initiative into its own hands, the G20 dispels the notion that an external stimulus may be necessary to trigger progression on climate-aligned SDG commitments. Instead, the desire to commit to voluntary climate communication is a welcome departure from previous evidence that found G20’s climate commitments to be at relative odds with the emissions reductions goals set out under the Paris Accord.
A determined G20 alliance, therefore, can thrive on the back of clearly chalked-out priorities. Balancing resolve with instruments of delivery can end up accelerating the cause of a strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive post-COVID-19 era.
Xi Jinping At G20: Three Things To Do For Planet Earth
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposes three things for the Group of 20 (G20) nations to do in his speech via video link at the G20 summit side event about safeguarding the planet on Sunday.
Strengthening the response to climate change
Xi Jinping said the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement should be respected.
“Not long ago, I announced China’s initiative to scale up its nationally determined contributions and strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060,” Xi said. “China will honor its commitment and see the implementation through.”
Deepen the transition toward clean energy
Xi Jinping spoke highly of Saudi Arabia’s Circular Carbon Economy initiative. Then, he described China’s contribution to clean energy.
“China has put in place the world’s biggest clean energy system,” Xi said. “And [China] has led the world in the output and sales of new energy vehicles for five years running.”
Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said the Party have recommended the country to “pursue clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient use of energy” and “accelerate the growth of new energy and green industries” for the next 15 years.
Protecting the ecosystem with a respect for nature
Xi expressed China’s support in reducing land degradation, conserving coral reefs, and cleaning up plastic from the ocean.
Xi welcomed all parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to participate in the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in China’s Kunming City in May 2021.
He hoped the meeting can “set goals and take actions to ensure the protection of global biodiversity in the years ahead.”
China To Boost Economic Growth Through Innovation And Opening-up, Nurturing Joint Development In The Asia-Pacific Region
As the COVID-19 pandemic is still sweeping through the globe, with the Asia and Pacific region hit hard by the contagion, growth uncertainties are clouding economies to varying degrees.
Economic activity in the Asia and Pacific is expected to contract by 2.3 percent in 2020, and to grow by 6.7 percent in 2021, compared to a contraction of 5.8 percent in 2020 and a growth of 3.9 percent in 2021 for advanced economies, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
China, whose economy saw positive overall growth in the first three quarters this year, shared its vision for continuing to foster domestic economic recovery and mutual beneficial cooperation with Asia-Pacific economies, as Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Dialogues on Thursday via a video link in Beijing.
APEC, Asia-Pacific’s premier economic forum, was established in 1989 to leverage the region’s growing interdependence and boost regional prosperity through initiatives promoting free and open trade among member economies.
The Malaysia delegation of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) is hosting the forum for setting priorities in the aftermath of COVID-19, as Malaysia is the host of APEC this year.
Addressing leaders of Asia-Pacific’s business community, Xi said that China’s sound economic recovery has proven the resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy and he is confident that “steady unleashing of the China market potential will create vast business possibilities for other countries” and create stronger impetus for maintaining stable growth of the global economy.
Pursue innovation-driven growth
As science and technology have been playing an even more significant role in boosting social productivity, Xi said to achieve high-quality growth driven by domestic demand, China will vigorously boost scientific and technological innovations in the country.
He noted that innovation has always been the primary driver of development to China, and the country has made major achievements by implementing an innovation-driven development strategy.
“We will fully leverage the demand of our super-sized domestic market and the strengths of its complete industrial system and redouble efforts to turn research outcomes into real productivity,” the Chinese president said.
To sustain China’s long-term economic development, Xi added “we will endeavor to build an innovation system that integrates science and technology, education, industries and the financial sector, and upgrade the industrial chains.”
Nanshan district in the city of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. /CGTN
Deepen reform and opening-up through mechanism improvements
The Chinese president also stressed that the country will continue to deepen reform and energize the market as reform is crucial for unleashing and boosting productivity.
The ratio of China’s foreign trade to GDP dropped from 67 percent in 2006 to less than 32 percent in 2019, while the ratio of current account surplus to GDP has come down from 9.9 percent in 2007 to less than 1 percent today.
In seven years since the 2008 global financial crisis, the contribution of China’s domestic demand to GDP exceeded 100 percent, making domestic consumption the main driver of its growth.
Xi said that China has entered a new stage of development with new tasks of reform, emphasizing that the country will be adopting a new “dual circulation” development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other.
However, by fostering a new development paradigm, Xi pointed out “we are not pursuing a closed-door circulation, but open and mutually reinforcing domestic and international circulations.”
In addition, the president added that China will take more steps to remove deep-seated systemic and institutional barriers to modernize China’s governance system and capacity along with some market restrictions, from strengthening protection of property and intellectual property rights, set up a high-standard market system to improve mechanisms for fair competition.
Hopes for the Asia-Pacific business community
The APEC’s 21 member economies together represent roughly 60 percent of the world economy and take up almost half of the world trade volume in 2018.
Xi highlighted that the Asia-Pacific business community is an engine driving economic growth, and it carries an important role of shaping the future of the region.
He expressed hope for the community as he suggested that the business sector should put its efforts in promoting open trade and investment as well as development, exploring ways to achieve innovation-driven growth, and cooperating with each other and lending hands of help to the disadvantaged if needed for maximizing development outcomes.
On Friday, Xi will be attending APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, which is expected to see the launch of the region’s Post-2020 Vision – the key policy document that is set to elaborate the goals and guidelines for APEC member economies’ future cooperation.
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