Westerners, particularly of the Anglo-Saxon kind, (i.e. Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and, of course, the United States) still like to think of ourselves as the center of the universe. Oh, most of us deny it, usually vociferously, but think about it. How many non-Western movies or books have you read in 2005? How many non-Western television programs do you watch? How many non-Western magazines do you subscribe to? Name the capital of Tajikistan, or describe the political system in Malaysia. And so forth. The truth is, we Westerners, even well into the post-colonial era, still spend most of our time discussing how we view events. Unless you happen to subscribe to the Economist (as I do), you probably don't spend a whole lot of time becoming familiar with what's going on in the Rest of the World (ROW) on a day-to-day basis, unless it happens to be Iraq or the Middle East. And even the Economist is a Western magazine.
This is as true in ufology as it is in just about every other field. Events in 2005 reminded us that we are not alone - no, not in the extraterrestrial sense (who knows for sure about that one?), but rather here on Earth, where there are billions of people in the ROW who are not Westerners, who have views and agendas of their own, and who, in the coming years, may have a far greater impact on the study of UFOs (for good or ill, or perhaps both) than they have up to this point.
The biggest example?
Over one billion people (a lot more people than if you put all of the Anglo-Saxon countries together, and then multiplied by two).
What have they been up to?
Putting people in Space (not a good thing for a communist dictatorship to do, in my opinion, from a realpolotik point of view - does anyone really believe that the Chinese just want to take a peaceful look around? But that's another story, for another day, and if it spurs the Americans to get serious about space exploration again - as it seems to have done - then the news isn't all bad).
Talking about sending explorers to the moon.
Oh yes - and giving lots of government money (relative to the West) to the study of the UFO phenomenon.
Note that I didn't say the "serious study" of the UFO phenomenon. That's because much of what is coming out of China - and certainly it's neighbour, India - seems to be pretty... well, silly. The UFO stories published regularly in the India Daily, for example, are pretty "far out," unless you are a died-in-the-wool exopolitics believer type - like the one from March 21, 2005, that carried the headline "India Cancels Manned Moon Mission - Warned By ET?"
The reports from the 2005 World UFO Conference, held in Dalian, China back in September, were decidedly mixed.
Still, Sun Shili, the chairman of the conference, claimed that the Chinese interest in UFOs has created the largest community of enthusiasts in the world. The number now exceeds half of the world's total number of intellectuals, he stated. And these aren't all superstitious peasants in the impoversihed countryside, either. In Dalian's UFO Society, 90 per cent of the 400 members have college degrees. "It's exciting for us to use science to decipher UFO sightings," said Zhou Xiaoqiang, secretary-general of the Beijing UFO Society.
That's reason for guarded optimism.
If even a small percentage of the people of China and India are interested in UFOs, that's a number that can't be ignored, by either ufology or the governments of those countries - which may not be a good thing, in the long term, of you happen to be a Chinese ufologist. For example, Stan Friedman, who spoke at the Conference, had this to say: "Ufology is blossoming in China, and the participants are mostly professionals." Interestingly, the official Chinese news reports that I read referred to Stan as an American nuclear physicist - not a UFO lecturer, or proponent, as he is so often referred to here in North America, particularly by debunkers.
At the end of the day, who knows where this will all lead. China is a brutal dictatorship, after all. If you think information is tightly controlled in the United States, then you don't know much about China. Hopes of Chinese "disclosure" (assuming for the moment that there is something to disclose) are patently ridiculous, given the nature of the regime - and the fact that the media (which speaks for the regime) indicates, as one report said, that "one suspects that the truth may well be less strange than the fiction." This could all be disinformation of some sort, or part of some plan by the Chinese government (I can think of any number of reasons how and why the Chinese would be using UFOs, and trying to link with western scientists, none of them good).
Still, the point is that China (and the ROW) can't be ignored anymore (in ufology, as in so much else). People interested in the UFO phenomenon are going to have to deal with what comes out of these countries in the years to come - for good or ill. China in particular should be viewed with caution, the same way we deal with them in foreign policy and trade. Still, as with trade, and culture, the opportunity exists to use UFOs to establish common links with the Chinese people (in a much smaller way, but every little bit helps), and to bring them into the broader world community. Credible reports coming out of China (and the ROW) are also important - too many ufologists simply focus on Western, particularly American, reports. In the past, this made some sense, as it stands to reason that the better reports would come from a more technologically advanced country. But as the ROW catches up to the West in terms of technological sophistication, that gap in quality reporting will close.
This is not a new development. But with the increased exposure of China, and elsewhere (India, Brazil, or the Philippines, for example), in 2005, it has taken on a new importance.