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HomeLanguage NewsnewsChinese in Space Spurs Debate on Earth

Chinese in Space Spurs Debate on Earth


The fact that internet users have been asking why Chinese is the only language used on China’s new spaceship has triggered accusations of Western arrogance. The question was asked on Quora, the popular social question-and-answer platform, and has triggered a lot of activity as China successfully launched the Wentian laboratory module to its space station in July.

Here’s the question: “Chinese language is the only language used on the new spaceship. Is it a proof that the country is isolated and is getting rid of foreign scientists by using a language that is not international?”

One rational response pointed out that “they speak Chinese because it is their mother tongue and it is the easiest language for them to use. Why would anyone expect them to use another language when they have a vital job to do?”

Another retired technician added, “Most of the Chinese space program is manned by Chinese engineers and scientists. What language do you think they would choose to speak?”

“More people speak Putonghua than any other language. Why would you think they would use some ‘international’ language in their own space program? How arrogant that sounds.”

A Chinese user replied, “Well done, a textbook example for typical classic Western arrogance. If using Chinese on our own space station is being isolated, I guess you are assuming all seven billion people on this planet should speak English. Which cannot be more arrogant.”

William Liew explained that it was the US which specifically banned China from participating in the International Space Station, that China had simply built their own, and, of course, everything is written in Chinese.

“Do you know that only a few countries are permitted to use the International Space Station?” another netizen added, saying that the absent cooperation between the US and China is not a result of China’s unwillingness but because of an act the US enforced on itself, the Wolf Amendment passed in 2011, which essentially prohibits any direct cooperation between NASA and its Chinese counterparts.

A Chinese user commented, “we thought this was what you guys adopted long ago when you were dictating all the rules and all people had to play along since they do not have a choice. All we did was to offer another choice, and it is hilarious to see you whine about your monopoly taken away from you.”

China’s space station will of course use Chinese language, said Yang Yuguang, vice chair of the Space Transportation Committee at the International Astronautical Federation. Yang explained that using the astronauts’ mother language at operation interface is more conducive to the astronaut’s emergency judgment and operation; however, using Chinese as the first language in China’s space station does not mean excluding foreign astronauts from visiting the space station.

Astronauts from France, Germany, and Italy, who have been studying Chinese, are expected to go to China’s Tiangong Space Station this year, according to Xinhua News Agency.

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