In China, the Big Dipper is called Beidou. The seven stars in the spoon-shaped constellation are said to be the brightest among those that can be seen with the naked eye. Together they helped our ancestors navigate in ancient times. Today, the word has been appropriated to name a modern satellite positioning system developed by Chinese scientists and engineers to provide instantaneous positioning, text-messaging and timing services within China's territorial land and waters.
The Beidou system was initiated in 2000, when the first trial satellite was launched into orbit. With the blast-off of Compass G2, a second-generation satellite, in mid-April 2009, the system is said to have taken a solid step toward its final completion slated for 2020. By then, a total of 35 satellites will have been deployed to support the Beidou system, and their services will be more diversified and extended to cover the entire globe.
Even now, Beidou has found increasingly wide use, in areas like agriculture, forestry, fisheries, meteorology, water conservation and geological surveys, as well as transportation and telecommunications. Last year, it had two significant accomplishments: It assisted in relief efforts in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that hit Sichuan Province in May, and it was employed during the Olympic and Paralympic Games held in Beijing to help regulate local traffic and improve security at sporting venues. In addition to its civilian uses, the system also has vast potential for military applications, including operational command, air and marine navigation, reconnaissance and logistics. In fact, Beidou has become so mature and useful that the United Nations has identified it as one of the four core technologies of its kind in the world, alongside the Global Positioning System of the United States, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of the European Union.
More important, with the development and application of Beidou, China has continued to rely on its own resources to develop strategic technologies like this in the face of today's highly competitive world. Such a strategy not only complies with the rising needs and status of China and conforms to its goal of becoming scientifically and technologically more innovative, but ought to be the basis for any nation wishing to grow stronger.
Some Western powers said Beidou will threaten their military superiority or possibly encroach upon their commercial interests. This is a lopsided and narrow-minded perspective. In a world where competition dominates and leads to greater human progress, all countries have to compete to build their own strengths and develop for the benefit of the people and the world at large.