Now that the US has called it quits, China seems to have the most interesting space program. Russia doesn’t seem to be developing beyond their current capabilities. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon, EU and India’s efforts notwithstanding.
But why? Is it just for geopolitical prestige? It’s been said that China’s politicians can think in 50 year plans and 100 year plans since they don’t have to fight for every election. Is it possibly because China fears a resource crunch in 50 years time and sees asteroid mining as a commercially viable operation by then?
There is a list of stated goals of the Chinese space program on the wiki page but none of them provide the reason behind a manned space program. Of course having their own satellite launch capability and own GPS constellation makes economic sense.
So why the manned program?