Real lesson or propaganda?

Real lesson or propaganda?

Last Thursday, astronaut Major Wang Yaping conducted a physics lesson aboard the Tiangong-1 space station - yes, while in space.

She did her experiments with poise and confidence. She demonstrated how water bubbles would, in the absence of gravity, be suspended in air, and played around with a pendulum and a gyroscope.

Sixty million students across the mainland were excused from their classes to watch the live broadcast from space.

No doubt they were awe-struck by Wang's experiments. This was a rare interactive learning experience where students actually saw for themselves that the force of gravity does not exist in outer space. This "fact" was proven, not merely stated as true in a textbook.

The real question is why the state ordered 60 million students to tune into the broadcast. Was it really to teach students about zero-gravity conditions or Newton's laws of motion?

It is understandable that this lesson might have been used to popularise space science, and inspire young people to consider a career in astronomy.

However, it also seems plausible that this is a demonstration of China's "soft power".

We should look past superficial claims that merely underline the educational nature of the spectacle. It was meant as a message to the rest of the world that China, an economic giant, is also a leader in space technology.

Such propaganda serves to keep nationalist sentiments alive and also to consolidate influence on the international stage.

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- Op-Ed: The US government's spy programme on its citizens is reminiscent of China's ultra-tight supervision of netizens.



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