Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:51

Radical Changes in Canadian Democracy for Ecology and the Public Good

The three major problems facing Canadian society today are the high degree of inequality of income and wealth, the continuing degradation of the environment and the fiscal crisis in the government sector. All three problems are interrelated but the failure to address them stems from an erosion in Canada's democracy. The paper defines democracy, describes its principles and its rationale which is the public good. The public good is a collection of the ends of society which are multiple, diverse and shared. Specifically they include the objectives of peace, security, health, a fair degree of inequality of income and wealth, a balance between work and leisure for social, cultural, recreational and other pursuits, democratic engagement, and the level and quality of environmental and ecological resources. They also include the absence of "social bads" such as the incidence of crime and family breakdown. Next the paper identifies and describes the problems with Canada's democracy: citizen disengagement, the rise of consumerism in politics, the rise of conservative propaganda, politicians untrained for their main job in legislatures, corruption of political parties, a partially undemocratic electoral system and the commercial media's limited focus on democratic discourse. Each of these problems tends to reinforce each other so as to prevent elected governments from addressing the above-mentioned problems. Instead elected governments have adopted gradually over the last 40 years a form of capitalism that has featured the paramount goal of economic growth and an increase in the inequality of income and wealth. Neither of these results is compatible with the public good as measured by social scientists' indicators of trends in well being. The concluding section of the paper comprises seven radical proposals for restoring Canada's democracy: compulsory voting, reforming electoral systems to incorporate the principle of proportional representation, refocusing public education on civics, the nature of economic systems and political science, training politicians for their legislative responsibilities for economic management, increasing financial support for all political parties, public funding of non commercial media engaged in high level democratic discourse and a Royal Commission on the Public Good and Social Progress.

Wednesday, 02 July 2014 00:00

The Red Side of the Moon: China's Pursuit of Lunar Helium 3

This paper was presented at the "Tamkang School of Strategic Studies 2014 Annual Events" (4/25-4/27), and is going to be published by Tamkang University Press as a book chapter by the end of 2014. Two abridged versions of this paper have been published as articles on The Diplomat and The Eurasia Review, but here the paper appears in its entirety.

舉頭望明月 "Upwards the glorious Moon I raise my head." [ 李白 "Li Bai", 701-762]


When poets and lovers gaze at the Moon, they might also be looking at a clean and abundant resource that could meet the bulk of the global energy demand. In a world where energy requirements are bound to increase and fossil fuels are finite resources, the cratered satellite may offer mankind a way out of the energy conundrum: Helium-3. This element is a light, non-radioactive, and extremely rare on Earth isotope of helium that is mooted as the fuel of the future to enable nuclear fusion as a power source. It has been calculated that there are over one million tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres. Mining the Moon for the precious isotope, shipping it to our planet - and developing suitable fusion reactors - would provide clean energy for the next millennia. Alas, the costs and scientific challenges of such an enterprise would be phenomenal. Nonetheless, China - which allocates a stable and expectedly growing budget for space activities - appears determined to make it a reality of tomorrow. For years, Beijing has been systematically and patiently building up the key competence and platforms needed for an advanced lunar exploration program, under the conviction that 'walking on the Moon' is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. China stresses that its space program is for peaceful purposes and maintains its lunar mining would be for the benefit of all humanity. However, given the absence of wilful competitors, it is also speculated that the Chinese intend to lock up the resources of the Moon and establish a helium-3 monopoly. Thus, the question of whether China will act as a benevolent lunar dragon or create a helium-3 'hydraulic empire' might become one of immense relevance in the next decade.

Keywords: Moon, China, Helium-3, Nuclear Fusion, Lunar Exploration

1. Introduction

"Secure, reliable, affordable, clean and equitable energy supply is fundamental to global economic growth and human development and presents huge challenges for us." [World Energy Council, World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, 2013]

According to a 2013 United Nations report, the world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 20501. Of those future earthlings, 1.6 billion will live in India, and 1.3 billion in China2. By then, Nigeria's population is expected to surpass that of the United States3. Also, the forty-nine least developed countries are going to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion4. In light of these figures, it is not difficult to understand that humanity is going to face an increasingly acute energy trilemma - how to simultaneously achieve and balance energy security, energy equity (access and affordability) and environmental sustainability - in the coming decades5. "Conservatively, [...] more than a nine-fold increase in annual energy production needs to be made available by middle of the 21st Century"6 and, in the not so distant future "we have to replace oil, and in the next century we have to replace natural gas - and these two, taken together, represent sixty per cent of the total energy use of every country today."7 By factoring in that, as the Chinese government's white paper China's Energy Policy 2012 states, "energy is the material basis for the progress of human civilization and an indispensable basic condition for the development of modern society,"8 it is then easy to see that the trilemma poses a really formidable and frightening challenge.

As the world's second largest energy consumer, China is paying every effort to develop clean and unconventional energy in order to quench its thirst for energy.9 Beijing is profoundly aware of the imperative of addressing the trilemma.10 In fact, powering an economy the size of China's, especially the size it will be in three decades, only by burning massive quantities of finite fossil fuels and relying on conventional nuclear power is not an option.11 Besides making China unsustainably energy insecure and growingly politically unstable, this would eventually result into the country's environmental, socio-economic and political collapse, and destructively impact the rest of the world.12 Also, the rampaging competition for fossil fuels in the international arena would generate intense geopolitical frictions, fuel regional tensions and breed armed conflicts that would make the international system savagely Hobbesian and highly flammable.13 For all these reasons, apart from investing in conventional energy sources, China is also focusing on renewable and unconventional energy, and has made it a strategic priority.14 Beijing has even officially declared war on pollution,15 and is not going to leave any stone unturned in the search for a long-term, stable, and biosphere-friendly energy source.16

China's energy policies are in a state of rapid flux, but coal and other fossil fuels are still the source of the vast majority of China's energy consumption today. Currently, coal accounts for 67 percent of the energy consumed in the Asian giant, oil is the second largest source (17 percent).17 This situation cannot be changed overnight and, as a popular Chinese saying reminds us "water from afar cannot put out a fire close at hand" [遠水救不了近火], id est a slow remedy cannot meet an urgency. For this reason, the Chinese are pouring substantial resources into and placing their bet on the most futuristic and elusive of unconventional energies: nuclear fusion. In essence, developing nuclear fusion means to develop "what has been labelled 'unconventional nuclear technologies' in order to solve the world's impending energy crisis."18 Achieving fusion requires sparking and controlling a self-sustaining 'star in a bottle', "using temperatures of 200 million degrees Celsius to get atoms [...] to fuse together, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process."19 Beijing is also actively fostering conventional nuclear power as a source of electricity generation, although it makes up only a very small percentage of generating capacity at present - a fraction that is expected to grow to 6 percent by 2035.20 However, nuclear fission power plants produce vast quantities of radioactive waste to store, have catastrophic incidents on their record, and are limited by the fact the world's uranium stocks may run out in a couple of hundred years.21 "Fusion on the other hand," as Steven Cowley - director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority - points out, "gets its fuels, deuterium and lithium, from seawater - not only in plentiful supply but easily accessed, a definite bonus for an increasingly energy-insecure China. Moreover, fusion produces no significant waste. Against the background of a global struggle to dispose of toxic waste piles, this is a weighty advantage."22

Yet, while other scientific challenges have been overcome, a breakthrough in controlled thermonuclear energy (fusion power) seems to be always 'thirty years away'. Notably, The US National Academy of Engineering regards the construction of a commercial thermonuclear reactor, as one of the top engineering challenges of the twenty-first century.23 Most fusion research has focused on deuterium and/or tritium (heavy isotopes of hydrogen) as fuel for generating fusion. Deuterium is found in abundance in all water on earth while tritium is not found in nature but can be produced by the neutron bombardment of lithium.24 However, the nuclear fusion Gordian knot could be untied by shifting to another isotope on the periodic table of elements: helium-3.

2. Helium-3: Rare under Heaven

"But when the black gold's in doubt There's none left for you or for me Fusing helium-3 Our last hope." [Muse, Explorers, The 2nd Law, 2012]

Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Even though this gas is found naturally as a trace component in reservoirs of natural gas and also as a decay product of tritium - one of the elements used in making the hydrogen bomb - there is extremely little helium-3 on our planet.25 In 2010, University of Wisconsin-Madison's nuclear chemist Layton J. Wittenberg calculated that the potential helium-3 availability from natural and man-made resources on Earth for scientific experimentation was a mere 161 Kgs.26 The stockpile of nuclear weapons, the best current terrestrial source of the gas, provides only a supply of 15 kg circa a year. Helium-3 has applications in many domains. On the one hand, it is used in complex low temperature physical measurements as well as in certain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in hospitals. On the other hand, the gas has such valuable military applications that the US army's security services use it for the detection of dirty bombs.27 Although helium-3 is already in high demand for many reasons, it could become a universally coveted commodity thanks to its extraordinary energy properties, namely for its future use in nuclear fusion to generate electric power with no dangerous and long-lasting radioactive by-products.28

Fission power plants use a nuclear reaction to generate heat which turns water into steam which then hits a turbine to produce power. Current nuclear power plants have nuclear fission reactors in which uranium nuclei are split apart. This releases energy, but also radioactivity and spent nuclear fuel that is reprocessed into uranium, plutonium and radioactive waste which has to be safely and time-proof stored.29 For decades scientists have been working to obtain nuclear power from nuclear fusion rather than nuclear fission. In current nuclear fusion reactors, the hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium release atomic energy when their nuclei fuse to create helium and a neutron. Nuclear fusion employs the same energy source that fuels the Sun and other stars, without yielding the radioactivity and nuclear waste that is the by-product of nuclear fission power generation.30 However, the 'fast' neutrons released by nuclear fusion reactors fuelled by tritium and deuterium lead to significant energy loss and are immensely difficult to contain.31 One potential solution may be to use helium-3 and deuterium - "substituting helium-3 for tritium significantly reduces neutron production, making it safe to locate fusion plants nearer to where power is needed the most, large cities"32 - or helium-3 alone as the fuel in 'aneutronic' (power without emission of neutrons) fusion reactors. "Perhaps the most promising idea is to fuel a third-generation reactor solely with helium-3, which can directly yield an electric current - no generator required. As much as seventy percent of the energy in the fuels could be captured and put directly to work,"33 out-pacing coal and natural gas electricity generation by twenty percent.34

Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 could therefore provide a highly efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and negligible radiation.35 In the words of Matthew Genge, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the Imperial College in London, "nuclear fusion using Helium-3 would be cleaner, as it doesn't produce any spare neutrons. It should produce vastly more energy than fission reactions without the problem of excessive amounts of radioactive waste."36 Moreover, eliminating the use of slightly radioactive tritium in the fusion process, by using deuterium and helium-3 for fuel, also has the benefit of simplifying the engineering to meet radiation standards. Also, tritium is not an abundant, naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen on Earth, because of its short half-life of 12.3 years. For Deuterium-Tritium fusion, the tritium would have to be bred from lithium, in a blanket surrounding the inside of the fusion reactor, which is a complication that would be eliminated with Deuterium-Helium-3 fusion.37

Actually, the Helium-3 fusion process is not simply theoretical.38 The University of Wisconsin-Madison Fusion Technology Institute successfully performed helium-3 fuelled fusion experiments. To date, scientists have only been able to sustain a fusion reaction for a few seconds, but with nothing near the scale or energy yield necessary to be released for commercial use.39 In fact, the development of commercial fusion reactors is dependent upon demonstrating 'break-even': producing as much energy as it is needed to start the reaction.40 So far, deuterium-Helium-3 or Helium3-Helium 3 fusion has not yet come close to break-even.41 However, with massive investments in nuclear fusion research, commercial fusion reactors might become a reality within the next three decades.42 At that point, the demand for Helium-3 would skyrocket. Presently, even though nuclear fusion does not even work properly yet, helium-3 is so scarce and in demand that in 2010 the US Department of Energy officially lamented a critical shortage in the global supply43 and is already worth US$16 million per kilo.44

Indeed, Helium-3 is really rare 'under Heaven'. How about 'above Heaven'? Actually, the Sun - like all stars - continuously emits helium-3 within its solar wind, which consists largely of ionized hydrogen and ionized helium. The reason why Helium 3 is so rare on the Earth is that the terrestrial atmosphere and magnetic field prevent any of the solar helium-3 from arriving on our planet. However, as the Moon does not have an atmosphere, there is nothing to stop helium-3 arriving on the surface of our satellite and being absorbed by the lunar soil.45 Given that The Moon has been bombarded for billions of years by solar wind, helium-3 is available in the dust of the lunar surface.46 It has been calculated that there are about 1,100,000 metric tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres (since the regolith - i.e. the lunar soil - has been stirred up by collisions with meteorites).47 More precisely, according to two Chinese scientists, the lunar inventory of Helium-3 is estimated as 6.50×1^8 kg, where 3.72×1^8 kg is for the lunar nearside and 2.78×1^8 kg is for the lunar far side.48 Helium-3 could potentially be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 600 degrees C, before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a new generation of nuclear fusion power plants.49 Professor Gerald Kulcinski, Director of the Fusion Technology Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, maintains that about 40 tonnes of helium-3 - which equate to two fully-loaded Space Shuttle cargo bay's worth - could power the United States for a year at the current rate of energy consumption, without causing smog, acid rain and radioactive waste.50 This would require mining an area the size of Washington, D.C. Besides, several other valuable materials - such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide and dioxide - will be produced in the course of recovering the helium-3.51 It comes as no surprise, then, that the gas has a potential economic value in the order of US$ 1bn to 3bn a tonne, making it the only thing remotely economically viable to consider mining from the Moon given current and likely-near-future space travel technologies and capabilities.52

3. "Upwards the glorious moon I raise my head"

"Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful." [Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, 1224]

A team of University of Wisconsin scientists has calculated that if the entire lunar surface were mined, and all of the helium-3 were used for fusion fuel on Earth, it could meet world energy demand for over 10,000 years. In addition, given the estimated potential energy of a ton of helium-3 (the equivalent of about 50 million barrels of crude oil),53 helium-3 fuelled fusion could free the world from fossil fuel dependency, and is likely to increase mankind's productivity by orders of magnitude.54 But to supply the planet with fusion power for centuries, humanity has first to return to the Moon. Although mining helium-3 on the cratered satellite to power the Earth has been in the minds of scientists and political deciders since the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s, to date only China has embarked on a long-term endeavour to achieve such an ambitious goal, having established a satellite-based lunar exploration program called the Chang'e Project (Chang'e is a fairy living on the moon in a Chinese legend) in 2004.55 The question is: why China? The opinion of Michael C. Zarnstorff, deputy director of research for Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, can assist in the quest for the answer. "They [China] need a lot more energy due to their increasing population, and they really want to get rid of the pollution problems they have."56 If Beijing is able to mine the lunar helium-3 and effectively use it for fusion power, then it could avert China's environmental crisis. In addition, the People's Republic would become a major energy resource player and "offer a clean energy option to countries looking to wean themselves from oil dependency."57

Besides having "lots of cash and lots of educated people,"58 China is graced with a pervasively strategic culture, according to which thorough preparedness and long-term planning are the keys to success.59 Also, China's one-party political system, in which the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most important factor in determining the future of the country and the generational turnover at the top happens by co-optation once a decade,60 guarantees that strategic policies are consistently implemented over many years, rather than being reneged on or upturned at every budget or change of administration as it is often the case with Western democracies.61 Normally, in the 'State of the Center' long-term plans are ably enacted by highly selected practical visionaries undisturbed by democracy's glitches62 who are acutely aware that addressing the energy trilemma is vital for regime survival and that conversion to a sustainable world economy is the only way to go. Moreover, going to the Moon to harvest helium-3 is synergistically compatible with and reflective of the values and ambitions of President Xi Jinping's 'Chinese Dream'. The 'Chinese dream' slogan was launched soon after Xi's inauguration and has quickly become the new national mantra. The expression is used to describe the aspiration of individual and collective self-improvement in Chinese society and calls for patriotic unity under one-party rule. Interestingly, the 'Chinese Dream' vision also includes a space exploration élan,63 Mr. Xi having emphasized that "the space dream is an important part of the dream of a strong nation."64 Indeed, for a country like China, spacefaring and moonwalking are greatly instrumental to consolidating its legitimacy as a rising power. And many Chinese see their space program as the symbol of their once-impoverished nation's ascension to economic and technological primacy.65

As Joan Johnson-Freese, a United States Naval War College in Rhode Island professor who researches China's space activities, has pointed out: "China's getting a lot of prestige, which turns into geostrategic influence, from the fact that they are the third country to have manned spaceflight capabilities, [...] that they are going to the moon."66 Professor Ouyang Ziyuan (歐陽自遠), the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program appears to agree. "Lunar exploration is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. It is significant for raising our international prestige and increasing our people's cohesion," he told the media. But the Moon could also become an energy cornucopia. Professor Ouyang explained that solar panels would operate far more efficiently on the airless lunar surface and believes that a "belt" of them could "support the whole world" provided the generated electricity is sent back to Earth via lasers or microwaves.67 Plus, the Moon is "so rich" in helium-3, that this could "solve human beings' energy demand for around 10,000 years at least."68 In light of the statements above, it is clear that Beijing's lunar program represents a triple-win venture. Internationally, lunar expeditions "will increase China's political influence in the world."69

Domestically, 'conquering the Moon' would bolster the consensus for the political leadership and prop up Chinese national pride. Thirdly, on the energy security side, tapping into the Moon has the potential to make China not only energy self-sufficient and secure, but also turn the Chinese into the 'helium-3 Arabs' of the 21st century, especially in case they get to enjoy the position of monopolists. China would then become not only an energy superpower able to fix its social and environmental problems, but also the center of a global helium-3 hydraulic empire.70 The "spice must flow, and he who controls the spice, controls the universe!" Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, would say.71

Officially China's lunar program has three official main goals. The first is to gain technological skill. Secondly, the Chinese scientists seek to understand the moon's evolution and compare it with Earth.72 Thirdly, "in terms of talent, China needs its own intellectual team who can explore the whole lunar and solar system." Additionally, it is acknowledged that the rationale for a long-term program is that "there are many ways humans can use the Moon,"73 and that Beijing is planning a lunar base.74 As for the exploitation of the lunar resources, on the one hand the Chinese have repeatedly declared that they are going to utilize them "to benefit the whole of mankind,"75 on the other hand, Professor Ouyang has tellingly remarked that "Whoever first conquers the Moon will benefit first."76 In order to achieve such goals and eventually 'use the Moon,' the lunar exploration program consists of three stages: 1) flying around the Moon. Respectively in 2007 and 2010, Beijing launched the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 unmanned lunar probes to circle the Moon and map its surface to get three-dimensional images of the body from space. Scientists then analyzed the information sent back by the orbiters. 2) Landing on the moon. In December 2013 the Chang'e-3 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and China's first lunar rover, reached the Moon. The wheeled rover explored the vicinity of the landing area and radar-scanned the lunar subsurface structure. The second phase of the program will be completed by the Chang'e-4 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and rover, which is scheduled for launch in 2015. 3) Returning from the moon. The Chang'e-5 mission may be launched in 2017 or 2018 to further explore the Moon and collect lunar soil, and then would return soil and rock samples to China for first-hand examination. Only after the completion of these three phases China will be finally able to land human beings on the Moon.77 According to British space scientist Richard Holdaway, China could have astronauts treading on the regolith by 2025.78

4. To the Moon (and beyond)!

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." [John F. Kennedy, Moon Speech at Rice University, 1962]

As observed by former US astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt, Chinese scientists and experts have framed Beijing's space program partially in terms of their nation's constant quest for energy and raw materials, "talking about ­helium-3 and solar power as potential energy sources on the moon, as well as its reserves of titanium, rare earths, uranium and thorite."79 This 'pursuit of lunar resources' theme has then been combined with a 'geopolitical competition' discourse conveying a sense of urgency. "If China doesn't explore the moon, we will have no say in international lunar exploration and can't safeguard our proper rights and interests,"80 Professor Ouyang declared in 2010, hinting that progress in the lunar program would confer an edge to China if and when the extraction of the Moon's riches turns political. The 15 December 2013 edition of the Beijing Youth Daily argued that "China can obtain a certificate to sharing lunar interests only by carrying out exploration and gaining actual results." It also contended: "How to protect China's interest in outer space has become an inevitable question."81 Dean Cheng, an expert on China's space program at the Heritage Foundation, got the message clear. "Once you start mining, and even before, questions arise as to ownership, as to profit-sharing (if any), as to who has the ability to establish and enforce claims in space," he said. "A long-term presence in space will give China political capital."82 Thirdly, the lunar program has been presented to policy makers and the general public as a cost effective investment. For example, the chief scientist of the program has stressed that the total spending of Chang'e-1 mission was about RMB 1.4 billion, the same amount as the money used to construct two kilometers of subway in Beijing.83 Similarly, the Chinese political leaders can be reminded that, according to experts in the US , the total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about US$15-20 billion over two decades.84 By comparison, another big nuclear fusion project (on Earth), the International Thermonuclear Reactor Project (ITER) has an estimated total cost of now €15 billion (US$20.5 billion),85 and going to the Moon to mine helium-3 would cost "about the same as was required for the 1970s Trans Alaska Pipeline."86 Actually, US$ 15-20 billion does not appear to be an excessive financial commitment for a country which is to spend US$ 1.7 trillion between 2011-2015 - in the form of investment, assistance for state-owned enterprises, and bank loans - for a plan aiming at covering 11.4 percent of China's energy needs by 2015, and 15 percent by 2020, from non-fossil energy.87

Finally, the seductiveness of China's lunar vision has been enhanced with two additional charms: China's technological advancement and solar system exploration. As for the first, Ouyang Ziyuan's speeches often mention the achievements of the US Apollo program (1963-1972) in order to illustrate the transformational characteristics of any lunar project. The Chinese scientist reminds his audiences that Washington spent US$25.4 billion on the Moon's exploration at that time, which has thus far yielded an output worth fourteen times the original investment, leading to the birth of several new hi-tech industries and technologies such as the rocket, radar, radio guidance and so on, which were then put into civil use.88 The implication is that China's Moon exploration and colonization are going to be the catalyst for revolutionary technological progress that can transform the country's entire industrial landscape and bring a galaxy of economic and social benefits.89 However, helium-3 remains the biggest gem on the selenitic crown. If it is postulated that the commercial value of helium-3 will be US$3 billion/ton,90 and defensively estimated that there are 1 million tons of the precious gas trapped in the regolith,91 then the whole stock of lunar helium-3 would be worth an astonishing three quadrillion dollars. That is more than enough to cover the costs and risks of extracting and shipping it back to Earth. Finally, it should be kept in mind that while rocket fuel and consumables now cost an average of $20,000 per pound to lift off Earth, resources could instead be carried off the Moon much more economically. Given that the lunar gravitational pull is inferior to the Earth's, 83.3% (or 5/6) less to be exact,92 transporting material from the moon requires just 1/14th to 1/20th of the fuel needed to lift material up from the terrestrial surface.93

Financial considerations apart, helium-3 would be crucial for what perhaps is the most ambitious goal of China's lunar program: setting up a lunar base and using the Moon as a stepping-stone for space exploration.94 In order to turn the Moon into an operational headquarters for scientific experimentation and further exploration of the solar system, a lunar base should be established first.95 Helium-3 would be crucial for achieving that. In fact, the immediately available by-products of helium-3 production include hydrogen, water, and compounds of nitrogen and carbon. Oxygen can be easily produced by electrolysis of water. Thus, by mining Helium-3 Moon settlers would be able to obtain the air and water they would need to make lunar colonization sustainable.96 In essence, extracting helium-3 produces the resources we need to gather more of it.97 Lunar helium-3 could also become the premier rocket fuel of the future, turning the Moon into the launching pad or a refueling service station for space-bound missions. It appears that in the permanently darkened craters of the Moon's polar regions there are significant reserves of water (ice) that can be melted, purified and electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen.98 One by-product would be hydrogen peroxide for rocket fuel. Hydrogen can be obtained also as a by-product of helium-3 mining. Yet, helium-3 would offer ginormous advantages over hydrogen if it is used a nuclear rocket fuel. As John Slough, a University of Washington's professor of aeronautics and astronautics explains, "Using existing rocket fuels, it is nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth."99 NASA estimates a round-trip human expedition to Mars would take more than four years using current technology, but according to Slough the same voyage could be completed in maximum-three-month expeditions on a spaceship powered by fusion.100 Helium-3 would then be the best candidate as fuel for the fusion engines because it is abundant on the Moon and would provide far more power per unit of mass than chemical rocket fuels.101 Moreover, helium-3 as fusion fuel greatly reduces neutron production and therefore would be the safest option for the crews of ships.102

In the light of all these elements, it is clear that China is not just re-enacting and repeating the past US space program, but intends to shape the future. Beijing's grand plan to mine lunar helium-3 should be understood as "the first step toward creating a scientific and economic revolution which will power global economic growth and open the entire Solar System to mankind."103

5. Game of Moons

"A trader from Quarth told me that dragons come from the Moon." [Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 2, 2011]

Two years before the Apollo 11 mission, a treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. Inked even as the race to plant a flag on the lunar soil was well underway, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulated that no nation-state could ever own the Moon.104 According to the Treaty - to which 102 countries, including the People's Republic of China (which joined in 1983), are currently parties105 - Activities on the Moon may be pursued freely without any discrimination of any kind, and countries can place vehicles, personnel, stations, and facilities anywhere on or below the surface. However, as said above, neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon can become the property of any country or its citizens. In fact, a 2009 Statement by the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law clarifies that: "The current international legal regime is binding both on States and, through the precise wording of Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, [...] also on non-governmental entities, i.e. individuals, legal persons and private companies. [...]Since there is no territorial jurisdiction in outer space or on celestial bodies, there can be no private ownership of parts thereof, as this would presuppose the existence of a territorial sovereign competent to confer such titles of ownership."106 Also, as leading international law of space scholar Harold Bashor points out: "There are no rights of ownership for any natural resources in place. [...] This is generally interpreted to mean that a country may not claim ownership of any resources until they have been extracted. Yet, any extraction is required to be for the benefit of mankind according to the Common Heritage of Mankind principle."107 Moreover, since the Moon is to be explored and exploited for peaceful purposes, Bashor argues, states have an obligation not to interfere with the activities of any other state on the Moon, and any conflict has to be reported to the United Nations.108 Alas, the current system is predicated heavily on good faith, and whether future Moon-settling countries will behave fairly is yet to be seen. "A system lacking a clear legal framework has thus far worked for scientific ventures, such as the International Space Station. But history tells a different story when big businesses and competing nations turn their sights on a new frontier."109

This said, which states are actually going to play 'game of Moons'? As many as eleven robotic lunar missions including orbiters, rovers and sample return missions are to be launched between now and 2020.110 China (2015; 2017-18),111 Russia (2016;2019),112 India (2017),113 Japan (2018)114 and the US (2018)115 all have missions planned during this period, while new players eyeing post 2020 Moon missions may include South Korea (2020),116 while the European Space Agency's Lunar Lander project has been shelved due to budgetary constraints.117 Those states giving serious study to the launch of manned Moon missions by 2020-2030 are China,118 and Russia,119 Japan (in collaboration with the US),120 and perhaps India.121 Even though it appears that there are going to be several contenders playing the selenitic game, what is really needed in order to extract helium-3 and the other lunar resources is a lunar base. Hence, only two chess-pieces remain standing on the board: the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. Officials from both Beijing and Moscow have declared that their countries are going to build a base on the Moon. On 8 January 2014, Zhang Yuhua - Deputy General Director and Deputy General Designer of the Chang'e-3 probe system revealed that: "In addition to manned lunar landing technology, we are also working on the construction of a lunar base, which will be used for new energy development and living space expansion."122 His words echo Oyuang Ziyuan's 2002 mantic statement: "China will establish a base on the moon as we did in the South Pole and the North Pole."123 In Russia's case, the announcement has come from the upper echelons. Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin, who is in overall charge of Russia's space and defence industries, writing about the "colonisation of the moon and near-moon space" on the 10 April 2014 issue of the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta stated that Moscow plans to establish a lunar base for long-term missions to the Moon by 2040. Rogozin affirmed that that Earth's satellite is the only realistic source to obtain water, minerals and other resources for future space missions. A lunar laboratory complex will also be used for testing new space technologies. "This process has the beginning, but has no end. We are coming to the Moon forever," he promised.124 Despite Rogozin's rhetoric, it might be surmised that the Chinese are better positioned in the race for lunar helium-3. For a start, they have more money and resources, began "from a long way back but now they are catching up fast,"125 and "by the end of the decade [...] want to move from being what is classed as a major space power to being a strong space power." Tellingly, "within a little more than a decade, the only working space station in orbit could be Chinese."126 In sum, Beijing backs words with facts. For this reason, when asked if the idea of a Chinese lunar base extracting minerals was remotely plausible, the afore-mentioned Prof. Richard Holdaway: "It is perfectly plausible from the technical point of view, absolutely plausible from the finance point of view because they have great buying power."127 Buying power will be certainly needed, given that a 2009 analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that a four-person research station on the lunar surface would cost US$35 billion to build and US$7.35 billion per year to operate.128

If China wins the 'race for the Moon' and establishes a manned outpost conducting helium-3 mining operations, it would create a scenario similar that of the 2009 movie Moon. In that motion picture, a private company called Lunar Industries has built a mining base on the Moon and enjoys a helium-3 extraction and shipping monopoly - the same kind of monopoly that in the past created the fortunes of ventures like the East India Companies.129 Unlike that fictional universe, in the case of a Chinese lunar base the monopoly would be held by a state. The ramifications and consequences of such a scenario would be 'cosmic'. First, "China is what international relations scholars call a 'revisionist power,' seeking opportunities to assert its enhanced relative position in international affairs."130 Thus, establishing an automated or manned helium-3 operation on the Moon would be a spectacular statement of grandeur.131 Secondly, due to the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels on Earth, Beijing would be in a position to gradually build a helium-3 hydraulic empire in which it would control the supply of the precious gas, and become the only energy superpower. The making of such an empire would be most likely met with resistance. Plausibly, the prospect of China's energy supremacy, which would undoubtedly transubstantiate into pervasive geopolitical influence, would cause geopolitical tension, agglutinate anti-Chinese alliances, and prompt the other space-faring nations - the US in primis - to rush to the Moon to break the Dragon's monopoly. Then, a scenario similar to that described in Limit, a science and political fiction novel by Frank Schatzing set in a 2025, seeing China and the US develop a new Cold War for lunar helium-3 taking the space race of yesteryear to new heights. Thirdly, China might decide to acquire or retain control over helium-3 deposits by annexing lunar regions. International law would be neither an impassable hurdle nor an effective deterrent. Although the 1967 Outer Space Treaty asserts common ownership over everything in the universe beyond the Earth and requires all countries to share in the benefits of space,132 its article 17 permits signatory states to withdraw from the treaty with only a year's notice.133 Unilateral withdrawal by one of the major space-faring powers would undermine the existing international legal regime in space, prompting the other players to secure a piece of the pie in the sky for themselves. This would start a period of colonialism reminiscent of that in 19th century. Having established a permanent manned lunar base, China would be able to substantiate its claim by satisfying an important criterion for sovereignty: the wishes of the inhabitants. Also, claims over lunar areas beyond China's 'red side of the Moon' by other powers would legitimize Beijing's acquisition of its new selenitic dominions (where Chinese sovereignty would provide regulations and protection for private investors to operate).134 Once in control of vast helium-3 fields, China could even astutely play the 'game of Moons' by favouring the settlement and encouraging the territorial claims of non-hostile or friendly powers - for example other BRICS countries - in order to contain Western expansion and access to helium-3 on the lunar surface. Finally, China could decide to use its lunar base as a military asset "to dominate access on and off our planet Earth and determine who will extract valuable resources from the moon in the years ahead."135 More piercingly put, "the Moon could hypothetically be used as a military battle station and ballistic missiles could be launched against any military target on Earth"136 or in space. Our planet's celestial sister could also become one of the battlefields of future 'helium-3 conflicts', which would be simultaneously fought or spill-over on lunar, space and Earth domains.137 If this will turn into 'tomorrow's truth', then helium-3 will not just fuel the future, but also future rivalries and wars. The price for global energy security would then be global geopolitical insecurity.


6. Conclusion: A Call to Cooperation

"There was a time when energy was a dirty world - when turning on your lights was a hard choice. Cities in brown out, food shortages, cars burning fuel to run. But that was the past, where are we now? How did we make the world so much better, make deserts bloom? Right now we're the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun, trapped in rock, harvested by machine from the far side of the moon. Today we deliver enough clean burning Helium-3 to supply the energy needs of nearly 70% of the planet. Who'd have thought, all the energy we ever needed, right above our heads. The power of the moon. The power of our future." ['Lunar Industries Commercial' in Duncan Jones, Moon, 2009]

The 'game of Moons' scenarios evoked in the previous pages are not anticipations of an inescapable future. On the contrary, lunar exploration and resources development can be international cooperation synergizers and confidence building catalysts. Consistently, the Beijing Declaration, issued at the 2008 Global Space Development Summit in Beijing, calls for international cooperation "in all the applicative fields of space [...] as the world enters a challenging period characterized by globalization, dramatic population growth, serious environmental concerns and scarcity of resources."138 By 2050 there will be a dire paucity of all the economically recoverable fossil fuels (there would still be plenty of coal, but can humankind afford to put up with greenhouse gases?). "Also, all alternative sources of energy, like water power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, geothermal power, and wood will not be sufficient to supply more than 10 percent of the energy which will be needed by the 20 billion people that will be on earth at that time. We will be out of energy and forced to seek a new source,"139 predicted a venerable scholar at the turn of the millennium. And Sister Moon, "precious and beautiful,"140 can tend the Earth its energy salvation. The helium-3 trapped in the lunar soil offers humanity about ten times the energy that could be obtained from mining all the fossil fuels on Earth, without causing apocalyptic pollution. Also by tossing all the Earth's uranium into liquid metal fast breeder reactors, we could generate about half this much energy.141 But some men will have to cross the sky and conquer the Moon, and other people will have to tame particles, to open a new future up to humanity. Indeed, the quest for helium-3 is involved with the dynamics of succumbing to or reversing the process of global collapse. Common destiny and enlightened self-interest both dictate cooperation among all space-faring nations. Two countries in particular have greater responsibilities than the others: the US and China.

In almost every area of space activity, the US has a clear technological and operational advantage over other countries, including China. For example, in 2012 NASA landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, a much more difficult task than the Chang'e 3 mission by any measure.142 However, the US star does not shine as bright as in the past due to budget cuts, and a reluctance to maintain its space leadership143 as revealed by the cancellation of the American project designed to take humans back to the Moon (Constellation Program).144 On the other hand, even though Beijing's overall budget in space programmes is still rather moderate compared with that of the US, China appears to have what Confucius would describe as "the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach its full potential" in lunar and space exploration. The Chinese are quickly developing their own space technology kung fu and are currently collaborating with other countries such as Russia, Brazil, France, Germany and, very fruitfully, with the European Space Agency145 - but not with the US. Actually, China has recently made several overtures to the US. For example, Xu Dazhe, the new chief of China's space industry, while attending the International Space Exploration Forum in Washington in January 2014 said: "We are willing to cooperate with all the countries in the world, including the United States and developing countries."146 "The US, however, is wary of entering in any type of collaborative interaction with the Chinese, primarily for national security reasons ranging from technology transfer concerns to a general mistrust of the People's Liberation Army's involvement in Beijing's space program. Consequently, in 2011 Washington "has enacted Public Law 112-10, Public Law 101-246 and Public Law 106-391 to suspend all bilateral activities between NASA and the Chinese in spaceflight projects."147 Furthermore, China was barred from participating in the current orbiting space station, largely because of US objections over political differences.148 By contrast, the Chinese said they will welcome foreign astronauts aboard their future space station, which is scheduled to become operational in 2020.149

While the US government's duty and prerogative to protect national security is not in question, the issue of collaborating with China in space activities should be considered in the light of the benefits of going back to the Moon and establishing a settlement for the production of the Helium-3 fusion fuel. Working with the Chinese as part of a global effort to solve the energy conundrum would then become "the next logical step."150 For sure, combining forces would make humanity's pursuit of helium-3 power, quicker, cheaper and more efficient. Starting a cooperative effort, inclusive of China and the US, for lunar exploration would, first of all, require each participant a change of mindset as well as adopting an approach based on the four principles indicated by the Beijing Declaration: mutual benefit, transparency, reciprocity, and cost sharing.151 Actually, the same document identifies the development of a lunar base as the ideal next project for international collaboration on space exploration.152 Creative politics and diplomacy will also play a crucial role in ensuring good governance and fair dividends to all parties. New legal regimes for exploiting helium-3 and other lunar resources could be designed and approved. A new international regime, organization or enterprise for the cooperative development and terrestrial fusion of lunar helium-3 may be needed.153 Many diverse solutions will be possible as long as a sense of common destiny will be shared by the moon-settling nations. The race for making available a safe, clean and revolutionary source of energy to all human beings should not have any loser, only winners. Thus, civilizational or national egoisms should be left back on Earth. Helium-3 power is not meant to be the flame casting deep shadows over a new Dark Age, but the glorious light of a global renaissance: an era in which people will look at the Moon through a clear unpolluted sky. In Washington as in Moscow, New Delhi or Beijing.

1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision." 27 February 2014 (last update),
2 World Bank, "Population Projection Tables by Country and Group." 2014,,,contentMDK:21737699~menuPK:3385623~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:3237118,00.html
3 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision."
4 Ibid.
5 Christoph Frei et al., World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, World Energy Council, 2013, p. 218.
6 Harrison H. Schmitt et al., "Lunar Helium-3 Fusion Resource Distribution," University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011, p. 2.
7 Guenter Janeschitz as quoted in Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle," New Yorker, 3 March 2014,
8 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012, p. 2.
9 China Briefing, "China to Encourage Corporate Participation in Shale Gas Exploration", 10 October 2011,
10 Chang Chung Young and Fabrizio Bozzato, "The Dragon is Thirsty: China's Quest for Energy," International Conference on the Making of New Asia: Migration, Identity, Interaction and Security, Fo Guang University, Taiwan, 5-6 November 2011. See also: Jenny Lin, "China's Energy Security Dilemma," Projet 2049 Institute, 13 February 2012.
11 Joseph P. Giljum, "The Future of China's Energy Security," The 
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12 See, for example, Scott Doney, "Oceans of Acid: How Fossil Fuels Could Destroy Marine Ecosystems," PBS, 12 Feb 2014,
13 Michael T. Klare, "Fueling the Dragon: China's Strategic Energy Dilemma," Current History, Issue 150, April 2006, p. 180.
14 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012.
15 Reuters, "China to 'declare war' on pollution, premier says," 4 March 2014,
16 Maria Van Der Hoeven, "Strategizing for Energy Policy: China's Drive to Reduce Dependence," Harvard International Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Summer 2013, pp. 14-25.
17 Joachim Betz, "The Reform of China's Energy Policies," German Institute of Global and Area Studies Working Papers, No. 216, February 2013, p. 6. Also, biomass and waste: 9 percent; hydro-power: 3 percent; Natural gas: 3 percent; nuclear power: 1 percent; and other renewable sources: 0.2 percent.
18 Mark Piesing, "Big nuke vs little nuke: how the nuclear establishment is stifling innovation," Wired, 21 February 2012,
19 Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?," China Dialogue, 2 December 2013,
20 Ibid, p. 8.
21 Scientific American, "How long will the world's uranium supplies last?", 26 January 2009,
22 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
23 Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle."
24 Egbert Boeker and Rienk van Grondelle, Environmental Physics: Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, p. 66.
25 Marsha R. D'Souza, Diana M. Otalvaro and Deep Arjun Singh, Harvesting Helium-3 from the Moon, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2006, pp. 18-25.
26 Layton J. Wittenberg, "Helium-3 Resources and Acquisition for Use as Fusion Fuel in Aries III," in Farrokh Najmabadi, Robert W. Conn, et al., The ARIES-III Tokamak Fusion Reactor Study - The Final Report, University of California-San Diego, Advanced Energy Technology Group, Center for Energy Research, p. 15-5.
27 Dana A. Shea and Daniel Morgan, "The Helium-3 Shortage: Supply, Demand, and Options for Congress", Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, 22 December 2010, pp. 1-20.
28 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," Journal of Department of Applied Sciences & Humanities, Vol. IV, 2006, pp. 77-84
29 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power Reactors," November 2013,
30 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Fusion Power," February 2014,
31 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "Nuclear Fusion Power," 9 August 2000,
32 Stefano Coledan, "Mining The Moon," Popular Mechanics, 7 December 2004,
33 Singam Jayanthu, Bhishm Tripathi and Arjun Sandeep, "Scope of Mining on the Moon - A Critical Appraisal," Golden Jubilee celebration & MineTECH'11 of The Indian Mining & Engineering Journal, Raipur, 18-19 November 2011, p. 2.
34 Keith Veronese, "Could Helium-3 really solve Earth's energy problems?" io9, 5 November 2012,
35 Gary Pajer et al., "Modular Aneutronic Fusion Engine," Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, May 2012.
36 Matthew Genge as quoted in Henry Gass, "Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction," The Ecologist, 4 July 2011,
37 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon To Power the Earth," Executive Intelligence Review, 24 January 2014,
38 Matt Treske, "Moon Power," Wisconsin Engineer, Vol. 116, No. 1, November 2011
39 National Academy of Engineering, "Provide energy from fusion," 2012,
40 Bruno Maffei, "The Physics of Energy sources Nuclear Fusion," University of Manchester, 2012, p.10
41 Mohammad Mahdavi and Behnaz Kaleji, "Deuterium/helium-3 fusion reactors with lithium seeding," Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Vol. 51, No. 8, July 2009, pp. 85003-0
42 Sergei V. Ryzhkov, "Alternative Fusion Reactors as Future Commercial Power Plants," Journal of Plasma and Fusion Research, Vol. 8, April 2009, pp. 35-38.
43 David Kramer, "DOE begins rationing helium-3," Physics Today, June 2010,
44 Henry Gass, "Plans to Strip Mine the Moon May Soon be More Than Just Science-Fiction," Global Research, 7 July, 2011,
45 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation,", 13 September 2012,
46 Harrison Schmitt, Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space, Copernicus Books, New York, 2007, pp. 48-51.
47 Artemis Society International, "Lunar Helium-3 as an Energy Source, in a nutshell," 2007,
48 Wenzhe Fa and Ya-Qiu Jin, "Quantitative estimation of helium-3 spatial distribution in the lunar regolith layer," Icarus, No. 190, April 2007, pp. 15-23.
49 Alfred O. Nier and Dennis J. Schlutter, "Extraction of Helium from Individual IDPs and Lunar Grains by Pulse Heating," Meteoritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 1992,
50 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, January 2010, p. 246.
51 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
52 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation."
53 Joshua E. Keating, "Is There Money In the Moon? Maybe Someday," Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012,
54 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
55 Liu Yuanhui, "Reaching the Moon," China Radio International's English Service, 13 December 2013,
56 Michael C. Zarnstorff as quoted in Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space," CNN Money, 20 December 2013,
57 Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space."
58 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
59 Gilbert Rozman, Chinese Strategic Thought Toward Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012, pp. 1-6.
60 Xiaowei Zang, Elite Dualism and Leadership Selection in China, Routledge, London and New York, 2004, pp. 147-162.
61 Walter Wang, "Long Term Planning Puts China on a Different Path," CleanTechies, 16 August 2011,
62 Robert Lawrence Kuhn, How China's Leaders Think: The Inside Story of China's Past, Current and Future Leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, pp. 580-590.
63 The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon," 21 December 2013,
64 Xi Jinping as quoted in The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon."
65 Cole Pfeiffer, "Asia's space race: China looks to dominate the final frontier," Foreign Policy Today, 11 December 2013,
66 Joan Johnson-Freese as quoted in Chris Buckley, "China blasts off to moon with rover mission," Seattle Times, 2 December 2013,
67 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project,", 17 December 2013,
68 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon," BBC, 29 November 2013,
69 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Antoaneta Bezlova "China reaps a moon harvest," Asia Times Online, 30 October 2007,
70 Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, New York, Random House, 1957.
71 Brian Herbert, Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, Tom Doherty Associates, New York, 2003, p. 172.
72 Julie Sullivan, "Why is China interested in the Moon? Lunar Program Secrets Revealed," Headlines and Global News, 30 November 2013,
73 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
74 Marsha Freeman, "China Takes Next Step Toward Lunar Industrial Development," Beijing Review, No. 9, 27 February 2014,
75 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Space Activities in 2011 - I. Purposes and Principles of Development, 29 December 2011,
76 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Ajey Lele, Asian Space Race: Rhetoric Or Reality?, Springer India, London, 2013, p. 170.
77 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, vol. 27, no. 4, November 2013, pp. 26-31.
78 David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
79 Harrison Schmitt as quoted in Simon Denyer "China launches 'Jade Rabbit' rover to moon, precursor to manned mission," Washington Post, 2 December 2013,
80 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race," Global Post, 2 November 2010,,1
81 Beijing Youth Daily as reported in The Asahi Shimbun, "ANALYSIS: Lunar success marks China's rise as next space power," 16 December 2013,
82 Dean Cheng as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race."
83 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," p. 229.
84 Steve Almasy, "Could the moon provide clean energy for Earth?" CNN, 21 July 2011,
85 Dave Keating, "Oettinger aims to get ITER back on track," European Voice, 5 September 2013,
86 Harrison Smith as quoted in Cecilia Jamasmie, "Mining the Moon is Closer than Ever,", 1 January 2010,
87 Arthur Guschin, "China's Renewable Energy Opportunity," Diplomat, 3 April 2014,
88 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project."
89 South Central University for Nationalities, "Chief Scientist of CLEP Ouyang Ziyuan was Named Honor Professor of SCUN," 14 November 2012,
90 Steve Taranovich, "Helium-3 and Lunar power for Earth reactors," EDN Network, 15 March 2013,
91 University of Wisconsin-Madison - Fusion Technology Institute, "Lunar Mining of Helium-3," 12 March 2014 (updated),
92 Fabrizio Tamburini et al., "No quantum gravity signature from the farthest quasars," Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 533, A71, September 2011, p. 5.
, C. Cuofano2, M. Della Valle3,4 and R. Gilmozzi5
93 Ray Villard, "Strip Mine the Moon to Fuel Space Exploration," Discovery Communications, 13 July 2011,
94 Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014,
95 Sarah Fecht, "Six Reasons NASA Should Build a Research Base on the Moon," National Geographic, 20 December 2013,
96 William A. Ambrose, James F. Reilly II and Douglas C. Peters (eds.), AAPG Memoir 101: Energy Resources for Human Settlement in the Solar System and Earth's Future in Space, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, 2013, p. 41.
97 At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Kulcinski and his colleagues have designed a ten ton regolith mining machine called the Mark 3. They predict that one of their Mark 3 robotic miners could process six million tons of regolith per year and produce 201 tons of hydrogen, 109 tons of water, 0.033 tons of helium 3 (that's 33 kg.), 102 tons of helium 4, 16.5 tons of nitrogen, 63 tons of carbon monoxide, 56 tons of CO2 and 53 tons of methane. The CO, CO2 and CH4 contain a total of 82 tons of carbon. These researchers have chosen to heat the regolith only up to 700 C. See: Gerald L. Kulcinski , A Resource Assessment and Extraction of Lunar 3He, Presented at the US-USSR Workshop on D-3He Reactor Studies, 25 September- 2 October 1991, Moscow.
98 National Space Agency, "Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole," 20 June 2012,
99 John Slough as quoted in Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars," University of Washington News and Information, 4 April 2013,
100 Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars."
101 John F. Santarius, "Lunar 3He, Fusion Propulsion, and Space Development," Proceedings of the Second Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century (Houston, Texas, 5-7 Apr 1988), NASA Conference Publication 3166, Vol. 1, p. 75 (1992).
102 John F. Santarius, Role of Advanced-Fuel and, Innovative Concept Fusion in the Nuclear Renaissance, APS Division of Plasma Physics Meeting, Philadelphia, 31 October 2006
103 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
104 K.R., "Lunar property rights - Hard cheese," Economist, 16 February 2014,
105 United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,, (retrieved) 11 April 2014.
106 International Institute of Space Law, Statement of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), 22 March 2009.
107 Harold Bashor as quoted in Leonard David, "Moon Water: A Trickle of Data and a Flood of Questions,", 06 March 2006,
108 Ibid.
109 Joshua Philipp, "Mining the Moon: Plans Taking Off, but Rules Lacking," Epoch Times, 29 January 2014,
110 Craig Covault, "The New Race for the Moon," SpaceRef, 4 October 2013,
111 Ningzhu Zhu, "China plans to launch Chang'e 5 in 2017," Xinhua,
112 Igor Mitrofanov et al., 'Luna-Glob' and 'Luna-Resurs': science goals, payload and status, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014, Vienna, 27 April-02 May 2014.
113 The Hindu, "India to launch Chandrayaan-II by 2017," 10 January 2014,
114 Kenichi Fujita, "An Overview of Japan's Planetary Probe Mission Planning," 9th International Planetary Probe Workshop, Toulouse, June 2012.
115 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "ILN - International Lunar Network," 30 April 2013,; See also: Irene Klotz, "NASA Planning for Mission To Mine Water on the Moon," 28 January 2014
116 Soo Bin Park, "South Korea reveals Moon-lander plans," Nature, 13 November 2013,
117 Stephen Clark, "ESA lunar lander shelved ahead of budget conference," Astronomy Now, 8 November 2012,
118 Shaoting Ji and Wen Wang, "China's space exploration goals before 2020," China Daily,, 10 March 2014,
119 William Stewart, "Is Vlad keen on a trip? Putin eyes up cosmonaut uniform as his deputy premier sets out plans to colonise space and declares 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'," Daily Mail,
120 Srinivas Laxman, "Japan SELENE-2 Lunar Mission Planned For 2017," Asian Scientist, 16 July 2012,
121 Express News Service, "ISRO: No Manned Mission to Moon," 1 January 2014,
122 Zhang Yuhua as quoted in Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014,
123 CNN, "2010 moon mission for China," 20 May 2002,
124 Dmitry Rogozin as quoted in The Voice of Russia, "Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon - Dmitriy Rogozin," 11 April 2014,
125 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
126 Kevin Pollpeter as quoted in Sarah Cruddas, "Will China have an Apollo moment?", BBC, 11 December 2013,
127 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
128 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 24 September 2009.
129 Duane Byrge, "Firm Review: Moon", Hollywood Reporter, 26 January 2009,
130 John Hickman, "Red Moon Rising: Could China's lunar ambitions scramble politics here on Earth?" Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012,
131 John M. Logdson, "Lost in Space," Politico Magazine, 19 December 2013,
132 Everett C. Dolman, Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age, Frank Cass Publishers, London and Portland, 2002, pp. 84-88.
133 John Hickman, "Still crazy after four decades: The case for withdrawing from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty," Space Review, 24 September 2007,
134 Henry Hertzfeld, "The Moon is a Land without Sovereignty: Will it be a Business Friendly Environment?," High Frontier Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2007, Page 43.
135 Richard C. Cook, "Militarization and the Moon-Mars Program: Another Wrong Turn in Space?," Global Research, 22 January 2007,
136 Want China Times, "PLA dreams of turning moon into Death Star, says expert," 12 December 2013,
137 Metro, "How the Moon could fuel World Wars," 26 May 2009,
138 Beijing Declaration, Global Space Development Summit, Beijing, 24 April 2008, p. 2.
139 Wilson Greatbatch "War is not the Answer, Nuclear Fusion Power with Helium 3 is the Answer," Prometheus, No. 87, Special Issue, 2003,
140 Francis of Assisi, "Canticle of the Sun," 1225,
141 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," p. 80.
142 Keith Cowing, "Is China Really Winning a Space Race with Us?," NASA Watch, 20 December 2013,
143 Lamont Colucci, "America Must Retake Lead in Space Exploration," US News, 11 December 2012,
144 Jonathan Amos, "Obama cancels Moon return project," BBC,
145 Jane Qiu, "Head of China's space science reaches out," Nature, 6 March 2014,
146 Xu Dazhe as quoted in PTI, "China wants space collaboration with US," Economic Times, 11 January 2014,
147 Sanford Healey, "The Future of United States-Chinese Space Relations," Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 11-13 April 2013, p. 342.
148 Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China," Canadian Press, 28 December 2013,
149 Leonard David, "China Invites Foreign Astronauts to Fly On Future Space Station,, 28 September 2013,
150 Chris Hadfield as quoted in Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China."
151 Beijing Declaration, p. 2.
152 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base."
153 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, pp. 289-299.

Monday, 24 October 2011 11:06

Internet and Civil Society in China

Is there a “civil society 公民社会”in China? For more than two decades, Chinese intellectuals have been hotly debating the topic. Some of them stress that the basic differences in political system and traditions between China and the west make the use of such term inadequate, Other try to discern a “Chinese model”, according to which the participation of civic organizations to the consultative mechanisms established by the state ultimately fosters their independence. For these scholars, an “independent” civil society will ultimately be a fruit of the cooptation by the state of certain associations (chambers of commerce, charities, interest groups…), which feel gradually empowered by the tasks that the state entrusts to them.

However, ordinary citizens do not seem content anymore to see their participation limited to the domains and the mechanisms that the state unilaterally allow them to enter into. The meteoric rise of the use and power of Internet can largely be explained by the popular will to trespass the gradual mechanisms of social and political participation that the ruling class tries to enforce.  Online activism is not only about the content it carries: it stresses first and foremost the right of the public to debate any problem it finds relevant, and to do so at any time.

Different forces try to promote or constrain online activism – the state, the market and civic groupings work in fierce competition. Smaller organizations, less visible and which do not need to invest much in personnel and equipment may actually benefit the most of the flexibility of the online tools, fostering grassroots communities that are able to grow and to adapt very rapidly.

The Chinese Internet is not “democracy.” But it is an experimental platform where Chinese citizens aspire to build a model of debate and participation different from the limited version that the government tries to defend and promote. In the years to come, Internet will continue to be the focal point around which the evolution of China’s political, civic and cultural system will be debated and determined. In China, Internet may be already more than a “virtual civil society”: it has become civil society itself.

Read B.V.'s previous article on a similar subject:
Is the Internet the Bedrock of Civil Society in China?

(Drawing by Claire Shen)

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 11:52

My Notes on the 'Wild Strawberries'

Translated from the Chinese by Rob Voigt. Original 我的台北“野草莓”雜記/何東洪 published in Reflextion (思想) 11th ed March 2009


I felt originally that I was quite involved with the “Wild Strawberry (Yecaomei) Student Movement,” and so I jumped to respond to Reflextion Magazine’s invitation and write out some of my thoughts and observations on this sit-in demonstration. Little did I imagine that after responding, though the number of students in Freedom Square did gradually decrease, those remaining would sustain their protest for more than a month, all the way to New Years’ Day, 2009. In the end, a group of students entered the dispute that arose from the rented space, and a portion held unclear and differing points of view with regard to their experiences in the Square, as well as a lack of clarity on their imaginings and desires with regards to the meaning of the “movement.” I had a deep fear of being charged with so-called “violence of generational guidance.”

After all, the students describe their own action as a student/youth self-transformative movement. It wasn’t a break from school, but a face-to-face collective action to confront the violence of the state apparatus. At the same time, in many ways this movement was created out of the accumulation of more than twenty years of efforts to resist the state machinery by various social movements and political organizations, including the support of NGOs and material and financial contributions by everyday citizens. For that reason, the students have no choice but to shoulder a significant amount of societal responsibility – and criticism. As one of the so-called “wild professors,” I know that I too must accept my share of this same responsibility and criticism.

I am not setting out to discuss this movement from an elevated theoretical perspective on the history or limitations of social or student movements (and it should be noted that a significant amount of professors have touched upon this in the past month or so), nor do I seek to look back on these events by way of their development (this sort of analysis must be written by the students from their own experience, although due to regional context and differences in process this will certainly result in argument and contention amongst the varying perspectives). Instead I intend to take this opportunity look back and think deeply on these events; to express the memories of the Square that have haunted my body and mind ever since, acting as a teacher and through my experience of interacting with students, as a “wild professor,” and as one who has previously participate and continues to participate in student and social movements and interact with their membership.



On November 5th, 2008, I got a call from Lee Ming-tsung, who hurriedly explained that due to Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan, many students were involved in a conflict encircling his hotel, that came to be known as the Shangyang Music Store Incident, and as a result they wanted to make an official protest to the KMT. He hoped I could come to Tai Da to discuss the issue. That night I joined Lee Ming-tsung, TC Chang, Michael Lin, and several other students involved in Tai Da’s “Zhuoshuixi Club” in Fan Yun’s office. After a short discussion, I had to leave due to other commitments. As we discussed the plan, I didn’t intervene a great deal, but only addressed those present with questions as to the movement’s goals and methods. On the other hand, Michael spoke earnestly about the need for students to prepare psychologically and organizationally for the long-term struggle this could become, in that fascism was evidently returning in force. At that time, Fan Yun was busy in another office with a meeting, and so did not have a great deal to comment. That night Lee Ming-tsung drafted the 1106 Action Announcement and distributed it through the Tai Da BBS, so that by the second and third day the number of students participating in the sit-in in front of the Executive Yuan had reached four or five hundred, including several dozens of university teachers as well. It was several days later before I found out that one of the Three Appeals in the plan, a demand that “the Legislative Yuan immediately fix the ‘Collective Assembly Law’ that restricts the rights of the people” had been added by Fan Yun.

Unexpected changes and shifts in values often occur between the initiation of a “movement” and the actual experience of it. Some people say that this was a “flash” action enabled by the space provided by the BBS that later become a full-fledged “student movement,” and that at the beginning the majority of participants were merely the “fans” of a few of the Tai Da professors. It is said as well that it only took shape on November 7th with the move to Chiang Kai-shek Temple (I’ve heard students call it “Freedom Square,” but the CKS Temple[1] was what it was called in the “Wild Lily” pro-democratization protest), and thereafter as a result of reports in the media and through the internet did it become called the “Strawberry Generation” movement including students from a larger number of schools.

Evaluating whether what came to be known as “Wild Strawberry” (with its associated slogan “We’ll show you wild”) after its decontamination from the “Strawberry Generation” moniker, and whether it indeed deserves to be called a true social movement, or whether it was a self-reflective movement for the students, cannot be determined merely on the basis of media reports (particularly the month-long sustained reporting of the Liberty Times) or the comings and goings of certain loudmouthed internet critics, or even from the participants’ “official” documents. More crucially, it must be evaluated from the perspective of three major facets of the event: the appeals that were made, the movement’s mobilization, and its organization.



In the two discussions on the Wild Strawberry (野草莓 yecaomei) movement hosted by the Ao online magazine on December 14th and 20th, Chiu Yu-bin succinctly explained the importance of the above-mentioned aspects of the movement: participants had to first have some ideological preparation; the arrangement of topics and their expansion had to link up with the “on-site” action; and the result had to be well-organized work. If we take the body as a metaphor for comparison, we could say that the Wild Strawberry movement was weak from the start, and so had to reach its goals through on-the-spot training, embodying a unique openness and facing unique difficulties.

The “pan-Green curse” was a perpetual disturbance for this sit-in action. On November 6th, I was in Jiayi city, and got a call from a friend who was an assistant for the DPP’s legislation committee. He described that the students drew a line in the Square that politicized persons could not cross, demanding that if they were to enter they could not bring their own banners, markers, and so on, and he felt extremely frustrated at this new development. This was the students’ first time being divided with the pan-Green coalition. I could understand this friend’s dissatisfaction. For the past twenty years and more, Taiwan’s student movements were not predicated on social issues, but rather were drawn out by both social and political offenses. In this sit-in, which began from the so-called “Siege of Chen Incident” in which the Yuanshan hotel where Chen Yunlin was staying of course largely organised and encouraged by pan-Green supporters. Their thinking was, “why then should students and teachers be set apart from the masses, or from supporters of the pan-Green coalition?” Only the students could answer this question, and their answer was simply that they were even more forward-looking than the pan-Green political entity. They allowed anyone, from the masses to social organizations to identify with them and participate, but in an un-politicized manner – how could an entity acting as a “cheerleading squad” for a political party call itself an independently-thinking organization?

On November 10th the press conference hosted by the “wild professors” was held in the Square in support of the students. On November 11th the Taiwan Sociology Journal published the “Petition to Repeal the ‘Parade and Assembly Law’,” and on the 12th the Raging Citizens Act Now (火大聯盟) coalition began their protest action aimed also at getting the law thrown out. On the same day at noon the Sanying community[2] arrived in the Square. Through these three actions, it looked as though the “social force” behind the students was strengthening, but it also “compelled” students to face issues of the specific content of the “third appeal” and provide an explanation of the meaning of the movement. Seeing things in light of later developments, the demands that ROC President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan publicly apologize and that Director of Police Wang, Cho-chiun and Director of National Defense Tsai Chao-ming step down were clearly not achievable by sitting our butts outside the CKS Temple; furthermore, the appeal to “fix the law” was certain to lessen the force of proposals to eliminate the law altogether. Yet at the same time, if following the path of “fix the law” would amount to simply hanging on the coattails of the pan-Greeners, then that too would not be a sound path. The students, with the help of the Jimeng NGO[3] and during discussions on the Square, had the opportunity to become familiar with the relationship between the violence of the state machinery and the weak voices it stifles, particularly with regards to the fact of the suppression of freedom of assembly and civil rights, They found that there exist many contradictions, and this is not a problem than cannot be resolved purely through the development of a national identity or a political choice.

A movement must be properly armed and equipped with its “ideological preparation,” but could the students’ small group organization and distribution of work achieve it?

On November 7th, when I was in Jiayi meeting with a group of professors, we received a live broadcast online of the students discussing the possibility of leaving the Executive Yuan, and retreat to the NTU main gate or to the CKS Temple were also discussed. Finally it was resolved to head to the Hall. Next was the discussion of whether or not, upon reaching the Hall, they ought to apply for a “collective protest permit,” and I couldn’t help but blurt out at the screen, “Do it! You’re going out in a collective protest, why do you even need to discuss applying?!”

Starting from that moment, until all that remained was the final group of ten or twenty students at the Hall in the end of December, in all resolutions big or small the students took a “direct democracy” approach (which everyone playfully described as having a “class meeting”). This was indeed a pioneering step, but it also proved to wear hard on this sit-in.

It may have seemed that this “discussion system” was a necessary measure in responding to “Lee Ming-tsung’s call to action on the BBS” because of the vast variety of groups involved: those dissatisfied with the “the police, symbolizing the state machinery, confiscating the ROC flag”; those supporting Taiwan independence; those supporting the nativism movement; and those who often participated in social movements, organizations and so on. In that case, given that the organizational makeup of the movement was replaced twice, the students’ deep differences could undoubtedly not be fully handled in the near-nightly “class meetings” at 9pm. In the end, the discussion system also became the cause of a large number of participants slowly trickling away.

Starting on November 7th the participants split into 22 small groups for discussion and selected a policy group, some experienced members “ran off” and left, the overall arrangement was reorganized, and work was distributed, leading up to the November 15th larger meeting. Finally on November 21st votes were cast to decide whether or not to stay (with 51 for and 42 against, it was decided to stay), the small work groups were again reorganized, and after the march on December 7th, only a few persistent students remained. The direct democracy approach in the end was unable to solve the issue of decreased student presence during the day (sometimes to the point that there would be no one in the sit-in tent area at all!), with many only arriving at night for meetings. Every student, no matter how many days they had participated, was counted as a full member simply by virtue of their showing up, and all were allowed to vote in the proceedings; and no matter if they were working on the action plan or expanding our appeals, the daily operations of the small groups were all systematically disseminated through the microphone on-site and posted online. This was truly pioneering work worldwide!

During mid-term exams in November, I once tried to enter the sit-in tent to talk with students about the details of the collective assembly law, when I was stopped from one side by a student wearing a surgical mask, saying that they were currently engaged in a “silent sit-in,” and no one was allowed to speak. After a while I simply had choice but to quietly leave!

There were essentially no students on the Square with significant experience participating in social movements who could have led the small group discussions. Some relevant problems in this regard were first that the participating students were always coming and going, and second that the various students gathered in the small groups had various conflicting interests and levels of authority, so it was difficult for them to produce any very substantive results.

Being that this sort of organizational system faced difficulties in pushing forward the appeals of the movement, and that the “class meetings” had no way to solidify the movement’s direction, it was inevitable that students’ interpersonal differences would be expanded and distorted, leading to misunderstandings and conflict on-site. The vote on November 21st was most representative of this effect. After the vote, more than twenty people from both sides of the argument left immediately to take the MRT home, leaving only the working staff and a small number of students sleeping on the Square. In the long and tedious discussion, and under the restrictions of the rules of procedure, neither side was capable of fully persuading the other, though each claimed that their suggestions would deepen the goals and direction of the movement. Such a strengthening of the goals of the movement could not be achieved in this sort of on-site discussion, or rather, argument. Other than on weekends and on the day of the big rally, larger social questions that arose were only clarified for the small number of students present in the day and at the “class meetings,” and the vast majority of the time members of the small groups did not encounter them. It’s not that they didn’t want to come to the meetings, but rather that they were busy with their day-to-day work, and had no time to go into the tent and talk over these issues with NGO groups and social workers.

At noon on November 12th, members of the Sanying aboriginal community came to the Square from the Legislative Yuan. A day prior they had been arranged to talk and have a discussion, but upon their arrival they were “bureaucratically” blocked by a student in charge of maintaining the border around the student area in the Square, saying they had not received the proper “directive.” After a bit of fussing, the community representatives were allowed to come in and give the students a simple talk on their experiences and goals. I saw then in the tent, other than a few students watching and listening intently, everyone else sat with heads lowered, reading their books for the upcoming mid-term exams. That night I saw several students updating the action process poster, explaining this “action” by writing that “the Sanying community came to express their greetings,” and honestly I felt quite disheartened, feeling unsure if it was a small group of students’ ignorance, or arrogance, that took things down to this level.


Photo: Chen Yu-chun


Every day I took the bus to Fu Jen University, and then from Fu Da to the square, so I became accustomed to observing the students. One day on the 802 bus, I saw a boy and girl who looked like grad students, wearing fashionable clothes. The boy was leaning against the window by my side, and from his bag he took out a Louis Vuitton catalogue, intently looking through it from the back page to the front. Afterward he passed it across me to the girl, telling her to give it a look: “there’s good stuff in there,” he said. Then as she was reading it, he took out Edward Said’s “Power, Politics, and Culture” from his bag, and began to read through it ravenously. As I walked towards school a bit later, I pondered over the juxtaposition of such extravagant brand-name consumerism and the radical writings of Post-colonial intellectuals, thinking - aren’t both just forms of fashionable consumer culture? Or is it somehow possible that in a Post-modern, individualistic society they can coexist without leading to conflicts of identity?

On November 9th on the Square, it came through the microphone: “[Such-and-such student], the McDonalds you ordered has arrived!” From the first week of the sit-in, an enthusiastic public provided an endless stream of material support on the Square, including food, and yet there were still some students hankering after McDonalds. To others, maybe this could appear to be an insignificant issue of food preferences, but to those who, like me, have been through Taiwan’s movements against military officials in schools and against censorship, who joined up with peasant movements, who resisted the WTO, and who one night went out with a group of protesters to smash the windows of a McDonalds, it is truly difficult to “reconcile” with that nauseating scene. When I heard the call through the mic, I could only stare through the hazy drizzle and put on an act, calling out to the students jokingly, “we’ve received so many donations of delicious food, and you still have to order that trash from McDonalds?!”

This sort of silly “act” has been a necessary weapon of mine in confronting students for the past few years. I was completely unable to persuade Fu Da students to come to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, especially those participating in the protests to protect the Lesheng leprosy clinic. I acted comically and told the students, “go take a look, there’s some fun stuff going on over there!” But they simply answered, “we don’t really give a damn what those Tai Da students are up to.” In the end they didn’t go; it seems they preferred to be scooped up into a police vehicle in front of the Department of Health, they preferred to defend the Lesheng clinic to the death on the morning of December 3rd, to be dragged away by the SWAT team, and carried off to the ocean, where the police let them out so they wouldn’t have to deal with the paperwork. Among them there was still no shortage of Tai Da classmates also participating in Wild Strawberry who joined them to help out that day.

My playful act is no sham, but rather an attempt to connect with the “Strawberry Generation,” to “wrestle with them” (this is a phrase I stole from Hsia, Lin-ching upon getting to the Fu Da Psychology department!). My days on the square were a perfect example of me trying to “wrestle” as best I could. Still, I was barely able to achieve anything at all with this strategy, because we “wild professors” made a tacit agreement after November 15th to withdraw to a secondary position in the movement, and let the students take the reins. Moreover, under the oft-referred to “tension between teachers and students,” a common debate on the Square about subjectivity and authority between the two groups, the students’ challenges and criticisms of the roles of specifically designated to teachers in the sit-in were simply inevitable.

On November 21st after the first policy-making group was dismissed and replaced with a new vote, the sense of distrust that arose between different students on the Square also made students begin to question the position of the professors, and to regard us as a large, homogenous unit. Although on November 15th the large rally that made us think it was nearly time to leave and return to campus, it later became evident that from start to finish the students had no way to reach a final decision of that sort. On the night of November 24th, a group of relatively positive teachers at the Square resolved to work together with the new policy-making group, and they pushed me and Chen Chao-ju to the square to explain to the students. Once we arrived, I noticed that a few students seemed affronted by the actions of the teachers. At that moment one student asked me, “Is it that the teachers no longer believe in the new team, you’ve given up on us?” During their “class meeting,” Chen Chao-ju reported that during the day the teachers had gone to the Control Yuan to give a full account of the situation in the name of the “Taiwan Academic Platform to Defend Democracy,” and afterward I explained concisely: “Under the three appeals of the students, the professors continue to support the students under a collective name, and furthermore, with regards to the progress of the movement to this point, regardless of any pressure from on-campus authorities and school officials, we professors will surely support the students to the end.” Afterwards the Director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, Lin Feng-zheng , proceeded to explain that organization’s relevant efforts regarding the Collective Assembly Law, and express a similar mutual support for the students.

In the students’ eyes – and this of course is referring to a good number of days into the sit-in – on the issues of the lack of clarity in leaving or staying, a daily weakening of trust, and the decision-making on various issues at critical junctures, the teachers were seen as “meddling” too much. But in reality, disagreements between the teachers and students were primarily the result of divergent ideas as to the rhythm, viewpoints, goals, and organization of the movement.



The possibilities for difference and agreement amongst the teachers remind of what the Fu Da students said – “we don’t really give a damn what those Tai Da students are up to.” As would be expected, as soon as the sit-in started, all of the professors mentioned in the media or “noticed” as being more radical or influential by the students were from Tai Da. Yet like all of the students on the Square, the Tai Da students were not a monolithic bloc, they were like students from other schools, each holding varying positions regarding the relationship between the social movement and government by the majority party. The “Tai Da students” label, pointing to a “liberalist” political stance, or to a supposed contradiction with the more left-wing stance of the “non-Tai Da students” made apparent in the appeals for the sit-in that were drawn forth at the end of the “Seige of Chen Incident.” This sort of thinking was seen as the reason a number of students with experience in social movements were unwilling to come to the Square early on.

In trying to grasp the political circumstances or develop a movement to its climax, one cannot be led by ideological divisions, or allow them to be the only consideration in deciding whether or not to participate; in joining hands with the political affairs of a political party, it is by no means inevitable that one’s own ideals will be sucked up into their machine. Actually, in the circumstances reflected by Taiwan’s recent experience under eight years of control by the DPP and then a return to a KMT government, the repeal or repair of the Collective Assembly Law and the differences and urgency therein has impelled liberal thinkers and the Left to open an opportunity for dialogue on the “fundamental human rights of the people.” I think this opportunity is one of the most meaningful substantive results of this particular action.

There are many teachers who expressed the hope that the Lesheng Youth Union would come and lead the “Wild Strawberry” movement. The implication therein is of course that the position of the movement was difficult for many to understand, which was complicated by a weakness of discourse, the weakening of an ability to mobilize, disorder in the rhythm of the movement, the fossilization of its organization, and so on. And then also implied is that the young people who were involved with the Lesheng movement and the “95 Alliance” movement for youth labor rights relatively understand the political environment, namely that both parties are draped in many of the same trappings of the capitalist class. Their vigor and creativity, and their accumulation of thoughts and actions, could have been and should have been thoroughly consulted by the Wild Strawberries, rather than looking two generations into the past to draw inspiration from the Wild Lily movement!

Regardless of whether they appeared as individuals or as part of the collective force, the teachers’ ideas about themselves or their interpretation by others could hardly be removed from considerations of the spirit of the “Wild Lily Generation.” Perhaps in the hearts and minds of the students on the Square, only the Wild Lily movement was comparable; or perhaps it was the teachers’ involvement that made the students think their student movement experiences were like playing directed chess, where someone is telling you all the moves. Supposing the former, perhaps students only imagined the scope of what happened in March of 1990, rather than all that has come since the middle of the 1980s, as we have seen many various student protest groups arise in response to new campus issues, social issues, daily organizational work, links between schools, and the clash of innovative thought with an idealized image of society. It is exactly due to the contributions of these student movement groups that the March Student Movement could succeed, although it too was opened up in the space of political circumstances, although its results were also disappointing. Furthermore, the teachers’ saying of “playing directed chess” reflects several intertwined explanations. “When you have a need, you call for us to come, when you don’t, you say we’re too involved,” many teachers complained. Precisely because this was an action without a clear collective face, many of the individual differences amongst the students couldn’t be seen, discussed, and resolved into a unified exterior whole. As a result, the individual advice of certain teachers was channeled through the individual opinions of various students, and as soon as it was brought into the collective discussion, into the “direct democracy” method of the “class meetings,” things could not take shape into a coherent discussion. In addition, discrepancies in levels of authority and knowledge between the professors and students were brought with us to the Square, and upon reaching an impasse these conflicting relationships were reproduced as constricting limitations placed on the movement. “On a structural level, the professors are relatively conservative” – Fan Yun expressed at one discussion forum. As both domestic and international historical examples bear out, certainly, in the expansion of social movements, professors of the academy often lag far behind the stances taken by social and student movements. Still, this doesn’t necessarily apply to every sit-in or protest on the streets. Transcending the asymmetrical relationships of authority and knowledge addressed previously requires conflict, simply put. What did the students’ choices - for an extended sit-in, the decision on December 7th to take “peace, rationality, and non-violence” as guiding principles – what did these demonstrate? The discussions surrounding these issues were quite puzzling.

This sort of transcendence for the greater goals of the movement need not unavoidably take the form of “patricide,” and the accumulated limits and ideological conservatism of those who came before in the process of a given movement also need not once again fall upon the shoulders of the current people. The historical account is not decided in this way; to assess these issues, both sides must first mutually admit that differences in experience continually emerge in the stereoscopic manner; claiming one’s position to be critical or radical, in the current context of a two-sided, Green vs. Blue political situation, is potentially the most conservative move; groups previously labeled as pro-Green are not necessarily currently acting as the safeguards of pro-Green interests.

“Only by remolding past ghosts and monsters into corporeal bodies can we draw out the future’s departed spirits,” the theorist Tom Nairn once wrote. We don’t want to only look back at the spirits of the “Wild Lily generation,” because in these past twenty years those individuals have continued to struggle alongside the most underprivileged lowest strata of society. By referring to their practical experience to gain a clearer picture of the Blue/Green political scene we can find a way to supersede the Blue/Green dichotomy.

Intellectuals reflecting upon the historical stature of student movements do not necessarily have to seek out the less positive examples of students transferring their experiences into careers in politics, business, or some other vested interest. Those who continued to struggle and work in social movements, NGOs, and the like long after they were no longer students are equally worthy of a sincere appraisal. Otherwise, as many say, when those who were brought up in Taiwan’s social movements in the ‘80s now exercise intellectual and bureaucratic power in the academy or as a part of the state machinery, how can we distinguish between those who as before continue to struggle on the ground, living in line with Gramsci’s ideal of the “organic intellectual,” with those sharp-tongued critics who, in reality, have their asses covered and benefit from the protective umbrella of academia or the state?



As I see it, the movement began to show signs of vigor and development only after the first leadership group was replaced, from the last ten days of November to the end of December. The organization of activities and space, as well as students’ independent work within each organization group, began to take things from the “greatest common divisor to least common multiple” - from the public indignation at the “Seige of Chen Incident” to the multi-faceted effort of the sit-in. Although in the middle of November the vast majority of students already knew that this would be a failed movement from the point of view of their concrete appeals, perhaps more important was that those who remained to participate had the genuine opportunity to work together and get to know each other.

Towards the end of December, after the march on the 7th, the evening discussions on the Square continued. Some of the students who had been there since day one felt that continuing the sit-in was the only means to achieve the original aims of the movement. Some of the students began to engage in conversation with non-student fellow citizens on the square, listening to their life stories. On New Year’s Day, as the Wild Strawberry students worked to maintain order at the public gathering, I could see a significant transformation in their demeanor from the expression on their faces; I saw in them a new self-confidence.

Yet I still cannot stand in support of the students’ having used the vast majority of money donated to their cause on the necessary supplies for a “large march.” Other than the construction of a few big banners, action rooms, and two pagodas, midway through the DIY ethos almost totally disappeared from this movement. Several million NTD in surplus became their common undecided burden, or resource. I’d rather have seen them donate the entire sum to other social movements or disadvantaged groups, and then begun anew back on campus, simply bringing their experiences on the Square back to campus to reflect, discuss, and expand their organizational makeup, rather than paying a 35,000NTD monthly rent for the “WildBerry House” to act as a luxurious place to socialize and warm up.

At one of the discussion forums I made a statement that I’d like to now reaffirm. “Many people have worked for many years on various social movements, worked seriously, without any financial resources, and are still able to gain positive results. So then, on what basis do you feel justified to sit here on the Square, not even moving your butts, and so easily raise millions of NTD!”

It would be a tragedy for the Wild Strawberry student movement to think that the movement was exceptional for its generational disparities, or to neglect self-reflection by playing off various disputes as simple differences in approach to the issues. If the students truly want to call themselves a legitimate social movement, then this process must continue by means of a step-by-step accumulation of experience coming to understand society’s structure and history, and through an expansion of work in daily communication and organization. It is not something that can be achieved by making grandiose statements on what has occurred, or by singing one’s own praises on the internet. Movements must require consistent positive struggle and engagement; they are not quick flashes, led by individualism or the anticipation of a hero-figure. Post-modernism cannot take to the streets, even though it did, and so died in action on November 7th when everyone decided to retreat to CKS Temple.

Ho Tung-hung is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei. His research topics include the relationship between nationalism and the sound of contemporary music, and he has been involved with the practice of social movements and music, as well as the formulating of Indy-culture and social movement periodicals. His written works include “Taike Rock and its Dis-content” among other papers.

If unspecified, photos by Kuan-Chieh Hung. For more of Kuan-Chieh's photos from the Wild Strawberries click here.

[1] The official translation is CKS Memorial Hall, however in mockery or anger at the concept of a Memorial they called it the CKS Temple (zhongzheng miao) during the Wild Lily democratization protest.

[2] The Sanying are an aboriginal tribe, based along the Xizhou River, Yingge Township. They are famous among social movements in Taiwan, having  amassed continuous support for their struggle against the government since they were forcibly evicted from their land.

[3] An NGO specifically calling for repeal of the Assembly and Parade Law which restricted the right of assembly (集遊惡法修法聯盟)

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Friday, 29 February 2008 18:18

Air-conditioned Democracy

The debate between Ma Yin-jeou and Hsieh Chang-ting on the Taiwanese TV channels, held February 24, was a non-event. Not only because we did not learn anything new about the program of the two candidates or their personalities, but also because of the format of the debate itself: twenty citizens had videotaped their questions, aired during the debate, and the candidates were informed in advance of the content of these questions. Therefore, it was more like an exam in which cheating is allowed…

We meet here with a paradox: allowing (carefully selected) citizens to air their views and concerns might look like an exercise in direct participation, making the debate more grassroots. And this is partly true, as questions on the environment, the judicial system and other everyday issues were prominent. However, this kind of “YouTube democracy" is obviously very artificial, bordering on manipulation. No surprise is to be expected, there are no experienced journalists for testing the candidates’ reactions - and carefully scripted answers do not teach much to the audience.

A democratic debate is to be based on surprise, direct contact, inventiveness... it does not have to be an exercise in memory power, but rather on character strength and imagination. Indeed, we are not only testing programs, but inner character and capacity for reaction and judgment as well. In that respect, one has to recognize that the American primaries do fulfill such a role – at least they do so this year…

Gadgets such as videotaped questions are not vital to democracy. Actually, nothing would be more dangerous than to go towards a kind of “virtualization” of the democratic process. We need to directly relate to our candidates and to assess them as real men and women whom we can or can’t trust. So far, the presidential campaign in Taiwan has failed the test: media reporting was not helpful. Debates have proven to be even less so.

Friday, 29 February 2008 18:18

Air-conditioned Democracy

The debate between Ma Yin-jeou and Hsieh Chang-ting on the Taiwanese TV channels, held February 24, was a non-event. Not only because we did not learn anything new about the program of the two candidates or their personalities, but also because of the format of the debate itself: twenty citizens had videotaped their questions, aired during the debate, and the candidates were informed in advance of the content of these questions. Therefore, it was more like an exam in which cheating is allowed…

We meet here with a paradox: allowing (carefully selected) citizens to air their views and concerns might look like an exercise in direct participation, making the debate more grassroots. And this is partly true, as questions on the environment, the judicial system and other everyday issues were prominent. However, this kind of “YouTube democracy" is obviously very artificial, bordering on manipulation. No surprise is to be expected, there are no experienced journalists for testing the candidates’ reactions - and carefully scripted answers do not teach much to the audience.

A democratic debate is to be based on surprise, direct contact, inventiveness... it does not have to be an exercise in memory power, but rather on character strength and imagination. Indeed, we are not only testing programs, but inner character and capacity for reaction and judgment as well. In that respect, one has to recognize that the American primaries do fulfill such a role – at least they do so this year…

Gadgets such as videotaped questions are not vital to democracy. Actually, nothing would be more dangerous than to go towards a kind of “virtualization” of the democratic process. We need to directly relate to our candidates and to assess them as real men and women whom we can or can’t trust. So far, the presidential campaign in Taiwan has failed the test: media reporting was not helpful. Debates have proven to be even less so.

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