An August 22, 2013 article in Space.com reports that there is a growing awareness among certain American space and foreign policy experts that hopes that China’s space ambitions can be constrained by other states and that it could be persuaded to accept American leadership are misplaced. This is based on something called the Constructivist Theory of International Relations that suggests that nation-states are constrained by acceptable standards of international norms.
The article quotes John Hickman, a professor of political science at Berry College in Georgia, as suggesting that China will be in the position to ignore the wishes of the United States and assume a leadership role over other countries in space exploration. "The problem with the constructivist theory of international relations is that it tempts decision-makers into engaging in wishful thinking about the future. If China takes the lead, then the other second-tier space powers will begin to follow the Chinese lead," Hickman said.
China intends to build a space station by the end of the current decade. Many experts suggest that it will then push for a crewed moon landing sometime in the 2020s. This is part of a Chinese drive to obtain super power status and to regain lost glories.
This drive bodes ill for the United States and her allies unless it is countered convincingly. Hickman suggests that the one thing that could trump China’s drive to establish a “Celestial Empire” in space is for the United States to establish a lunar base. Such a base would be a center of science and commerce and a convincing symbol that American power is not on the decline, but rather on the rise once again.