Beijing: China is seeking a greater presence in space, said a state-run Chinese daily which admitted that the country was "decades behind the US" in terms of space technology.
An article in the Global Times said that astronaut Neil Armstrong`s death has stirred up a feeling of nostalgia among the Western observers over the heyday of the US space programme.
"It also unexpectedly generated a new round of speculation over which will be the next nation to land an astronaut on the moon. China, in the eyes of many strategists, is closest to this goal," said the daily.
It said that since US President Barack Obama cancelled NASA`s return-to-the-moon programme in February 2010, "there have been worries that Obama`s `miscalculation` would help China`s space ambitions, and that a Chinese landing on the moon would weaken the US` technological hegemony".
It referred to a Foreign Policy magazine article "Red Moon Rising" which speculates about a future Chinese "moon colony".
"China, which is decades behind the US in terms of space technology, is seeking a greater presence in space. However, there is neither an official plan nor a national desire to engage in a comprehensive competition with space powers like the US and Russia," said the daily.
"...China`s lunar exploration is conducted based on research progress and the nation`s practical needs," it added.
Stating that a moon probe should become a vigorous drive for China`s scientific and technological upgrading, the daily said: "Western noises around China`s space development mirror the anxiety facing this emerging nation."
"Such worries prevail in almost all fields where China is making progress.
"Many Westerners instinctively interpret these progresses as threats, and thus demonize China`s motives in making such advances."