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Galileo shows peaceful technology pursuit
China Daily  Updated: 2005-12-29 06:57

As the Soyuz rocket carrying a test satellite blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the ambitious Galileo project eventually got off the ground amid cheers, suspicion and fear. But Europeans should be standing proud.

The successful launch of the Giove-A (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) yesterday is a vital first step towards offering a civilian alternative to the current GPS (global positioning system) and GLONASS (global navigation satellite system), controlled respectively by the United States and Russia.

Galileo's civilian nature makes it possible for operators to promise "service under all but the most extreme circumstances," which is vitally important for users.

Once in operation, scheduled for 2008, its 30-satellite constellation will deliver real-time positioning down to within a few metres with unprecedented accuracy.

Because of the huge number of potential civilian applications, in such areas as traffic management and telecommunications, the multi-billion-euro project will not only be a job creator but also a cash earner.

But from its very inception, the European idea of creating a global navigation network independent of GPS has come up against criticism in the United States.

Commercially, the envisioned Galileo project will be a strong competitor for GPS, because of its pledge to provide higher precision and reliability.

Its American critics have also cited security concerns in order to stifle the Galileo project, fearing it will end up breaking the US military's de facto monopoly of global positioning applications.

They seem particularly upset by the Chinese role in the European initiative. In their eyes, Chinese participation in such a technologically sensitive project means ultimately upgraded Chinese military capabilities, which will put US security in danger.

The US Government has employed similar pretexts to prevent the European Union from lifting its arms embargo on China. But both the Chinese and Europeans know how absurd these excuses are.

That the two parties finally joined hands in the biggest space project ever undertaken in Europe, and biggest ever in terms of China's international technological partnerships, is a symbol of trust and understanding China and the EU have built up over the decades.

In spite of differences in values and systems, China and Europe have discovered constructive approaches to dealing with each other. Such approaches cultivate mutual trust, which yields mutual benefits.

Participation in the Galileo project means China will share some of Europe's latest technological expertise, which will help domestic industries.

On the other hand, Chinese contributions to the project are not limited to monetary input. After two successful manned space flights, our scientists also have something to share with their European counterparts.

According to the contract, the Chinese share of the project includes a fishery application system, location-based services, and search and rescue radar transponders.

All such applications are civilian in nature.

Even in the business sense, the Galileo project is non-threatening. It is designed to complement and be interoperable with both GPS and GLONASS.

Five other non-EU countries have taken part in the Galileo project following China. Nine more are negotiating for membership.

The Galileo project offers an opportunity for all of its participants to demonstrate that all technologies can contribute to peace, as long as they are not meant to threaten.

It can serve as telling evidence that fear is nothing but an outcome of the obsolete Cold War mindset.

(China Daily 12/29/2005 page4)

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