I take the NASA Administrator’s press release and the Space News headline to mean nothing threatening happened during the recent China visit.
And that’s ok. It’s like the doctors say: first do no harm.
From the press release:
I am pleased that NASA was able to meet its objectives for the visit, which included becoming acquainted with relevant Chinese space officials and institutions, better understanding Chinese human spaceflight programs and plans, and reaching a common understanding of the importance of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of any future interaction between our two nations in the area of human spaceflight.
Actually, if the Chinese get the transparency thing writ large, the trip will have been well worth the effort. However, if this sort of language is just diplomatic boilerplate, not so much.
But on further review, the boilerplate hypothesis is the clubhouse leader; you could easily say been there, tried that. After all, Bolden’s statement is little different from this part of a White House statement from November 2009:
The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit.
My concern is we keep looking at China as if they’re us. They’re not. They have their own goals, purposes, and aspirations – like space-driven prestige and partner building, among other things – in mind.