There’s been a lot of discussion about China’s “new” aircraft carrier program. Some talk too about its new fighter.
Too little attention, I think, about where they have really invested:
China surpassed current U.S. capabilities in a race to explore resources in the deepest parts of the world’s oceans and set its sights on beating world leader Japan next year.
The dive means that the Jiaolong—named after a mythical Chinese sea dragon—is capable of reaching 70% of the ocean floor, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, adding that the vessel was expected to attempt a dive to 7,000 meters—the maximum it is designed to withstand—in 2012.
If that dive is successful, it would allow the Jiaolong to explore 99.8% of the seabed and put it at the top of a list of just five manned submersibles capable of diving below 3,500 meters, where many rich mineral deposits are thought to reside.
Japan’s Shinkai can go down to 6,500 meters, Russia’s Mir and France’s Nautile to 6,000 meters, and the U.S.’s Alvin to 4,500 meters, although an upgraded version of the Alvin, designed to reach 6,500 meters, is scheduled to be ready by 2015.
The capability of such vessels is significant as rising prices for many industrial commodities mean there is growing interest among state-run and private mining companies in exploiting mineral resources under the oceans, which cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface.
Outer space proved a dry hole, at least in a practical sense. The ocean floor is the future.
China is getting there first.