NASA should get Taiwan status right

By Chi Zao (People's Daily Online) 17:49, March 29, 2021

Enraged Chinese netizens have bombarded NASA with demands to withdraw their names from the organisation's initiative to "send your name to Mars" after they found out that NASA has labelled Taiwan as a "country," as well as omitting part of Tibet from China's territorial boundaries on its official map.

The initiative, which is open to netizens worldwide who can sign up to have their names sent into space on NASA's future Mars mission, has attracted over 18 million participants around the globe as of press time. Over 4 million applicants from the Chinese mainland, as well as more than 130,000 from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have signed up for the initiative, making China the top country on NASA's list of name submissions.

NASA labels Taiwan as an independent country on its official website.

However, on its application portal, NASA has labelled Taiwan as an independent country, as well as excluding parts of Tibet from China's territory on its online page featuring a world map. The move was first exposed on Chinese social media earlier in March and has led to an online campaign to boycott NASA in China.

"I wasn't aware of NASA's petty trick when I signed up for the mission. Exploring the red planet is a noble cause for all human beings; it is despicable of NASA to exploit our good intentions for political reasons, and it is sad to see science being plagued by politics," said a netizen on Douban, a Chinese social networking platform.

Netizens on Weibo have also called for a campaign to withdraw their signed applications from NASA, calling the organisation "despicable and rude."

For a "politically correct" institution like NASA, this is not its first "politically incorrect" move against China. In 2013, NASA faced a fierce backlash from researchers worldwide after it rejected applications from Chinese nationals who wanted to attend a conference at the agency's Ames Research Center in California on the grounds of national security.

The latest public wrath is to be well expected as NASA has undermined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.

The Biden administration has reiterated its adherence to the one-China policy on the Taiwan question. In February, a spokesperson at the US Department of State, Ned Price, reiterated the Americans' stance on Taiwan, noting that the US' one-China policy has not changed. Meanwhile, NASA's Taiwan stunt has been nothing more than a smack right in the face of the US government.

NASA is a US government agency. And so, it is obliged to honor its government's words and actions, and should show a greater understand regarding the sensitive nature of the Taiwan and Tibet questions.

Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. This is a fact recognized by the international community and a basic norm of international relations.

China has always stressed that the one-China principle is the political foundation for the China-US relationship, and a red line that should not be crossed. On the Taiwan question, there is no room for compromise or concessions from the Chinese government.

As a scientific research center, NASA has the capability to send probes to Mars and has successfully sent humans to the moon. Thus, on what is fundamentally a much more simple, down-to-earth matter, NASA should get the status of Taiwan and China's map right, and do so with likewise care and precision. 

(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)


Related Stories