Monday, October 13, 2014

Extraterrestrial Contact: The Importance of China

China throws a big global shadow these days. The country has the largest number of Internet users in the world: 600 million. Chinese consumer spending is projected to triple by 2020. Chinese consumers are purchasing property around the world, including a major buying spree in the United States, England and Canada. None of that is probably a surprise to you. But what does Chinese influence mean if alien First Contact occurs some day?  Americans love to assume that aliens would make First Contact with the United States. After all, we are the self-professed leaders of the free world. One does have to ask a question: why wouldn’t those aliens want to contact China first? The country is due to outpace the United States both in population and economic growth in the next few decades. Why would aliens want to bet on the second place nation? Okay, okay, Americans, stop freaking out about the second place nation remark. I love America just as much as the next guy. But we need to be realistic: demographics mean that China will play a huge and growing role in world politics in the next 50 years. Visiting aliens would need to take this into account. If you have read this blog before, you probably know that I actually don’t advocate alien First Contact with any one nation. I think doing such would be short-sighted on the part of the aliens. It could lead to distrust, paranoia and divisiveness in humans. Who knows, perhaps aliens would want such a thing? Communicating with one nation first could destabilize Earth politics and that could be an advantage to aliens with a harmful agenda. But the one nation approach doesn’t hold much value for aliens that want to start an honest and open relationship with all humans.

The Chinese perspective on alien intelligence is perhaps more enlightened than in some Western Countries. Doug Vakoch and Y.S. Lee conducted surveys of American and Chinese students in regards to religious and social reaction to the receipt of a message from an extraterrestrial civilization. The Chinese students were generally found to be better able to fit such an event into their social and religious framework. The real question may be how the Chinese government would react. China’s government is different from any other on Earth. It has a unique hybrid of communism and free markets. It also has a history of acting in secrecy and blocking the free flow of information for its citizens. And yet the same forces that are driving Western governments are also driving decision-making in China: world market competitiveness and free enterprise. How would the Chinese government handle pressures from Chinese business interests in the wake of First Contact? Alien contact would likely be perceived as a potential industrial bonanza. Whether this would be true or not would depend on what information aliens were willing to share with us. But the potential alone would drive most large companies to look for a strategy to capitalize on alien contact. That would in turn push governments in certain directions.

Would the Chinese want something different out of First Contact than Americans or Russians? Perhaps not, but the Chinese government has been scrapping to catch up to the other superpowers for decades now and that has led to an aggressive and hard-nosed attitude about technological developments. China has an active program of industrial espionage. It seems unlikely that the Chinese government would sit back and let the United Nations run the show in the wake of alien contact. The same could be said of the United States and Russia. Most of the security council nations would probably be hell-bent on getting a technological edge from visiting aliens and using espionage to do it. The only difference may be each nation’s ability to hide such things from its public. The U.S. does plenty of spying, needless to say, but there are some safe guards that occasionally lead to light being shed on those activities. That includes Congressional comment and hackers/activists uncovering secrets. You don’t hear much about Chinese spying coming from its own people. The Chinese government has much tighter controls on such criticisms and would be more likely than Western nations to have a comprehensive effort to gain advantage in First Contact.

I’m not beating up on China. The growth of the nation, and what it has meant for many of their people, is fantastic. The Chinese scientific community would be an important part of any First Contact reaction and the Chinese perspective on First Contact would be essential to world decision-making. The Chinese will need to be taken very seriously if First Contact occurs someday and take a shared leadership role in the human reaction to such an event. Hopefully, they will be an engaged, open and active partner in helping to determine the human reaction to First Contact.

Join the conversation on the Alien First Contact Facebook page.

No comments: