The up is red

Imagethief was enrocketed to read on Friday that China’s taikonauts –whom I prefer to call “astronauts” because “taikonauts” sounds like they should be exploring my sugar bowl– are considering starting a Communist Party cell in outer space:

“If China has its own space station, the taikonauts on mission will carry out the regular activities of a CPC branch in space in the way we do on earth, such as learning the Party’s policies and exchanging opinions on the Party’s decisions,” said Yang, a delegate to the on-going CPC national congress in Beijing.

“If we establish a Party branch in space, it would also be the ‘highest’ of its kind in the world,” said Yang, who is also deputy director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

It’s funny that Yang should say that, because the word “high” was definitely floating through my head as I read this. But Yang’s statement is a little unclear. Does he mean that that orbiting Communist party branch would be the highest Communist party cell in theworld universe, or the highest grass-roots political organization in the universe? He needs to choose his words carefully here. The former will be nothing more than a gentle slap in the face of the world’s less motivated communist parties. And, let’s be honest, no one really expects the Cubans, Laos or even the plucky Vietnamese to start lobbing cadres into orbit to compete with the Chinese ideological juggernaut. Heck, the Laos are happy when their national airline gets planes down in one piece (trust me, I’ve flown with it).

But if it’s the former, well, that’s a direct challenge to Uncle Sam. You can expect a phalanx of red-blooded republicans to be launched into orbit James Bond/Moonraker style within moments. And I’ll bet you America will go one up. We’ll not only launch a party cell into space, we’ll raise money while we’re there. I’m not sure how, yet, but the Republican national committee will find a way.

You may find it curious that I, a Democrat, mention Republicans here. After all, the American Lunar project was launched (metaphorically) by Kennedy, a Democrat. But somehow, I’ve always seen space flight as kind of a Republican project. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s the image of all those square-jawed Air Force types. Plus I am not sure the Democrats are organized enough to get a party cell into orbit.

There is more in the story. It turns out that the Taikonauts wouldn’t be forming a party cell out of unfettered, Lei Feng-style loyalty to the cause. It’s more to do with the party charter:

According to the CPC Constitution, a grass-root CPC organization should be established where there are three or more CPC members. The latest official figure shows that China has more than 73 million CPC members and about 3.6 million grass-roots CPC organizations.

You got that? Three or more. That means you can’t even have your Communist Party friends over for a round of Poker without a party cell breaking out in your living room. How inconvenient. Having a road trip? Better limit yourself to two party members in your car unless you want to spend the whole drive to Guilin discussing dialectical materialism. Try drowning that out with Van Halen.

“Like foreign astronauts having their beliefs, we believe in Communism, which is also a spiritual power,” said Yang. “We may not pray in the way our foreign counterparts do, but the common belief has made us more united in space, where there is no national boundary, to accomplish our missions.”

I’ll pause here so you can inhale the aroma of full-bodied surreality drifting from this statement.

Yep, that’s space. It’s either cowboy Jesus freaks or commies. Makes you wonder what the first lunar colonies will be like, and give thanks that you’re not likely to be living there. If this is who we plan on launching into the universe someday when the sun becomes a red giant (no pun intended) and consumes the Earth, then the rest of the universe had better look out. Frankly it’s amazing space aliens haven’t shown up to wipe us all out just as a precaution.

And to think I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. Those youthful dreams die hard. But I noticed another story last week as well (via the Wired blog). Coincidental timing? You be the judge:

BEIJING (AP) — China hopes to join an international space station project that already counts leading space powers like the United States and Russia as its members, a government official said Tuesday.

China takes great pride in its expanding space program and sees it as a way to validate its claims to be one of the world’s leading scientific nations. But China does not participate in the International Space Station, due in part to American unease about allowing a communist dictatorship a place aboard.


“We hope to take part in activities related to the international space station,” Li Xueyong, a vice minister of science and technology. “If I am not mistaken, this program has 16 countries currently involved and we hope to be the 17th partner.”

So, lemme get this straight. The Chinese are talking about starting Communist Party cells at the same time as they are asking for inclusion in the International Space Station? So much for “central planning”. This ain’t the strategy to get NASA to roll out the, um, red carpet. Try talking about how little oxygen Chinese astronauts needs or how they live for weeks on one tube of reconstituted porridge. But don’t talk about the Party. After all, the US government still holds the pink slip on the “international” space station, and the last thing they need floating through their overstretched, little heads is the image of zero-G Marxism study sessions.

Come to think of it, it’s the last thing I need, too.

He'll know what to do about this!

He’ll know what to do about this!

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