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India to Skip OBOR summit in China

India will skip the two day grand OBOR summit organised by China to showcase its plans to build a network of trade routes under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR). OBOR is an ambitious China’s ambitious development strategy and framework that aims to boost its connectivity and trade that will that will connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. It was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

The summit is expected to be attended by nearly 65 countries. However, only 20 heads of state is expected to attend the summit. The US and Japan who were initially reluctant to attend the summit have decided to send a representative at the last minute. India, however, has refused to send any representative owing to sovereignty concerns related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  

The countries like Russia, South Korea, France, Germany and UK will send either ministerial or official delegations to the summit. As far as india’s neighbours are concerned, Pakistan is sending the largest delegation consisting of four chief ministers and five federal ministers. Others like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives will also have official representations. Bhutan will not participate as it has no diplomatic relations with China.  

India’s Concerns

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is a 3000 km project connecting Pakistan’s deep-water port Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang falls under the OBOR initiative of China. The CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan region of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The Chinese presence in the disputed region has raised sovereignty concerns for India. The Gwadar Port offers China to have its naval presence in the Arabian Sea and to the Indian Ocean. Already, China has plans to station its marines in Djibouti in Horn of Africa in Indian Ocean. The other projects under the OBOR in South and South East Asia also have security implications for India.
Unlike India, none of the other countries have sovereignty related issues with OBOR initiative.

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China Simulates Lunar-like Environment

China has set up a 160-square-meter (1,720-square-foot)  laboratory — dubbed as “Yuegong-1”, or “Lunar Palace” for simulating a lunar-like environment. Four Postgraduate students from the Beijing’s astronautics research university will live in the laboratory for up to 200 days in a bid to prepare for China’s long term  goal of putting humans on the moon.

The student volunteers would be sealed inside the cabin with no input from the outside world in order to simulate long-term, self-contained space mission. The cabin will have facilities for treatment of human wastes through bio-fermentation process. The experimental crops would also be grown in the labratory with the help of food and waste byproducts. The cabin according to Chinese agencies represents  the “world’s most advanced closed-loop life-support technology so far.”

The Lunar Palace is hailed as the world’s third bioregenerative life-support base and the first to be developed in China. The Lunar Palace is the first of its kind facility to involve animals and microorganisms as well as plants and humans. It has two plant cultivation modules and a living cabin consisting of four bed cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals.

Initially, a group of four students comprising two men and two women will be sealed inside the cabin for an initial stay of 60 days who will then be replaced by another group of four, who will stay for 200 days.

Though, China does not have any plans to land its astronauts on moon for at least another decade, this project is expected to help it prepare lunar explorers for longer stays on the surface of the moon.

Background

China views the programme as a mark of its raising global stature and as a step to catch up with the United States and Europe. Recently, China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, successfully docked with an orbiting space lab. However, so far China has been largely replicating the activities carried out by the U.S. and Soviet Union decades ago. It was hailed as a major step towards China’s ambition of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022. China has an ambitious plan of building a permanent space station by 2022, that will be in the orbit for at least 10 years.

In May 2014, China conducted a 105-day experiment by placing a team comprising of two women and one man from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) in ‘Moon Palace 1’, a 160-square-meter self-contained laboratory with an intention to prepare for placing astronauts in outer space for extended periods of time.

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China’s C919 Passenger Jet completed its Maiden Flight

China’s home-grown C919 passenger jet has completed its maiden flight. China’s C919 is a symbol of China’s ambitions to take market share from Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative global jet market estimated to be worth $2 trillion over the next two decades. It is a part of China’s broader “Made in China 2025” plan aimed at boosting its domestic high-tech manufacturing.

As a part of its maiden flight, C919 passenger jet undertook an 80-minute flight flying over the Yangtze River delta and touched down at Shanghai’s international airport.

C919

C919 is a made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). The aircraft can carry 158-168 passengers. The aircraft was conceived in 2008. The aircraft has been built relying on overseas technology firms including General Electric, France’s Safran, Honeywell International Inc and United Technologies Corp subsidiary UTC Aerospace Systems. China’s Eastern Airlines has placed 570 orders from 23 customers.

Issues

C-919 will require years of tests to get certified in China, as well as in the United States and Europe. This will take years from first flight to commercial usage. For instance, China’s first home-made jet, the regional ARJ-21, received its certification six years after its first flight. In addition without the certification by European and U.S. regulators, it cannot sell the jet in those countries that accept its certification standards. Hence, it would be difficult for the COMAC and its partner United Aircraft Corp to sell the jet in a global market dominated by Boeing and Airbus. Boeing has 100 years of experience in the aviation market while the Airbus has over 40 years experience.

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