– This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on October 17, Monday.
Welcome to CNBC Business Daily, I'm Qian Chen.
On Monday local time, China is set to launch a Shenzhou-11 into orbit from an isolated military launching pad in Inner Mongolia.
Scientists from around the world will travel to a remote military rocket base in the Gobi Desert to witness this latest volley in the intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry. The two-man vessel will rendezvous with a space lab launched September 15, where the crew will conduct experiments for a month - China's sixth and longest manned mission so far.
With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space. China is "on the rise and the U.S. is in very real danger of falling behind in the future," warned Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut and veteran of four space flights, one of which included commanding the International Space Station.
Beijing is pouring money into funding the nation's ambitions - which include being the first to explore the dark side of the moon and sending a probe to Mars in 2020, the latter in direct challenge to U.S. and European space agencies.
According to 2013 estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, China was the second-largest spender in space with annual budget of $13 billion - but still well behind the $40-billion U.S. space budget.
Despite being decades behind the U.S. space program, China is clearly catching up and using what Chinese experts call the "latecomer's advantage" - exploiting the latest technologies to leapfrog space advancements.
Last year, the country carried out 19 successful space launches - the second highest number behind Russia's 26 and ahead of America's 18 - and it is on track to launch a record of more than 20 this year. As it is, the U.S. can only send crew aloft by renting space on Russian spacecraft after it ended its space shuttle program in 2011.
Last month, China completed the world's biggest $180-million radio telescope, which is the size of 30 soccer fields - Xi referred to it as China's "eye in the sky." It will help map the universe and can receive signals from 13.7 billion light years away. This would give China's leaders the first chance to potentially receive communication from far-flung extraterrestrial civilizations.
To bolster this effort, China has built the world's fastest supercomputers to process the massive data involved with receiving this information.
In June, it launched a more powerful rocket, Long March 7, which has a 13-ton lifting capacity, from a brand-new space complex on tropical Hainan Island. That will be followed later this year by the even bigger rocket Long March 5, with a 25-ton lifting power that will rival anything that the Russians, Americans or Europeans have.
CNBC Qian Chen, reporting from Singapore.