China: The East Is Red

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"Our great leader, Chairman Mao, has stated, 'We too should produce man-made satellites.' We are happy to announce that this great call by Chairman Mao has come true." With that characteristic bombast, the New China News Agency last week announced an important technological achievement: the successful lofting of a 381-lb. satellite into earth orbit.

Besides broadcasting the Maoist unofficial anthem ("The East is Red, the sun rises, Mao Tse-tung comes out in the East . . ."), the latest satellite was roughly twice the size of the earliest 1957-vintage Russian Sputnik 1. Its launching demonstrated that China has joined the ranks of the U.S., the Soviet Union, France and Japan in developing both rocketry and electronic gear capable of such a feat.

The announcement caused little surprise in the West. U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird told Congress in February that the Chinese would "attempt to test-launch their first ICBM or space booster in the near future." The Pentagon added last week that the launching "obviously reflects the significant technological progress which is being made in that country." More precisely, it appeared to demonstrate that the Chinese were advancing toward an important goal: the building of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to U.S. and European targets as early as 1973. The news might well affect U.S. Congressional action on a proposed expansion of the Safeguard anti-ballistic missile system.