Bill Zhang

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

China launches manned space flight

Two years after China became only the third nation to launch a human into orbit, a pair of astronauts blasted off Wednesday on a longer, riskier mission after receiving a farewell visit from Premier Wen Jiabao.

Wen said the "glorious and sacred mission" would demonstrate China's national confidence and ability.

A rocket carrying the Shenzhou 6 capsule and the astronauts blasted off Wednesday from the remote base in China's northwest. In a break with the space agency's typical secrecy, the launch was shown live on Chinese state television.

The mission, reportedly due to last up to five days, is a key prestige project for China's communist leaders, who have justified the expense of a manned space program by saying that it will drive economic development. It will be more complicated than the first flight in 2003, which carried one astronaut and lasted just 21 1/2 hours.

Minutes after liftoff, mission control announced that the first stage booster had successfully separated from the rocket and that the flight had entered its preset orbit.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the two astronauts, or "taikonauts," will take off their 22-pound spacesuits to travel back and forth between the two halves of their vessel -- a re-entry capsule and an orbiter that will stay aloft after they land.

Earlier in the day, Xinhua announced the identities of the two taikonauts -- Fei Junlong, 40, and Nie Haishen, 41. Previous reports said 14 former fighter pilots were training for the mission.

Images of Fei and Jun in their cockpit as the craft roared toward orbit were broadcast live to hundreds of millions of Chinese television viewers. None of the 2003 space flight was shown live by Chinese television.

"Feeling pretty good," Fei said in the first broadcast comment from the astronauts.

Xinhua said the crew was picked from a field of six finalists. Nie was one of three finalists for the 2003 mission, which made a national hero of Yang Liwei.

The two taikonauts will conduct experiments in orbit, Xinhua said without elaborating.

China, the third nation to put a man into orbit, insisted ahead of the launch that its aspirations in space were strictly peaceful and that it opposes deploying weapons there. Space officials say they hope to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 and launch a space station.

"We do not wish to see any form of weapons in outer space, so we reaffirm that our space flight program is an important element of mankind's peaceful utilization of outer space," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.

International reporters were barred from the launch base. The handful of Chinese journalists allowed to attend the liftoff were warned they might be ordered to hand over any photos or video -- a possible image-control measure in case of an accident.

The Shenzhou -- or Divine Vessel -- capsule is based on Russia's three-seat Soyuz, though with extensive modifications. Spacesuits, life-support systems and other equipment are based on technology purchased from Russia.

But space officials say all equipment launched into orbit is Chinese-made.

China has had a rocketry program since the 1950s and fired its first satellite into orbit in 1970. It regularly launches satellites for foreign clients aboard its giant Long March boosters.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

China's development mode to change in "11th Five-Year Plan" period (2006-2010)

The Fifth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that attracted the public's attention was opened in Beijing on the morning of October 8. The meeting will discuss the strategy for China's socio-economic development in the next five years.

Judged from the information disclosed before the opening of the session, China's 11th Five-Year Plan will continue to adhere to the strategic thinking that "development is the absolute principle", at the same time it will lay special emphasis on commanding the overall situation with the "scientific outlook on development".

Analysts hold that the "11th Five-Year (2006-2010) Plan is the first five-year plan formulated after Chinese leaders put forward the scientific outlook on development, which is of a turning-point significance compared with previous five-year plans. For China's socio-economic development for a longer period of time to come, scientific development should also be an "absolute principle".

The Conference of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held on September 29 stressed the need in the next five years to persist in putting people first, change the concept of development, create a new development mode, improve the quality of development, carry out the "five balances" (balancing urban and rural development, development among regions, economic and social development, development of man and nature, and domestic development and opening to the outside world), and earnestly shift socio-economic development onto the track of all-round coordinated and sustainable development. This indicates that the "11th Five-Year Plan" will be a program for comprehensively implementing the scientific outlook on development.

In August this year, General Secretary Hu Jintao of the CPC Central Committee paid a special visit to the three provinces of Henan, Jiangxi and Hubei for investigation and study, focusing his inspection on issues of enhancing independent innovative capabilities. He emphasized the need to take enhancement of independent innovative capability as the strategic base for scientific and technological development and as the central link in the adjustment of economic structure and transformation of the mode of economic growth, and strive to blaze a trail of scientific and technological innovation with Chinese characteristics.

Zheng Xinli, deputy director of the Central Policy Research Office, points out that as early as during the "Ninth Five-Year Plan" period (1996-2000), China clearly called for a change from an extensive to an intensive mode of economic growth, but so far no breakthrough progress has been made as a whole. The main reason for which is technically due to the lack of independent innovative capability.

Transformation of the mode of economic growth is one of the core contents of China's establishment of a new development modality, it implies: China needs to change from excessive dependence on the input of funds, natural resources and the environment and from the realization of growth through quantitative expansion to more reliance on improving laborers' qualities and technological progress, so as to raise efficiency and achieve economic growth.

The "11th Five-Year Plan" is, of course, the continuation of the first 10 five-year plans, but the coming five years are of utmost importance to the progress of China's future modernization. In the next five years beginning from 2006, whether or not China's socio-economic development can step onto the track of scientific development will determine whether our country can build up a well-off society in an all-round way by 2020 and whether or not it can realize industrialization and modernization by the middle of this century.

From 1978 to 2004, the average annual rate of economic growth of China in reform and opening up to the outside world reached 9.4 percent, China has now become the world's sixth largest economic entity and the third largest trading country. The rising of China has become a hot topic of conversation in today's world.

However, the old road of high input, high consumption and low output that boosted China's economic growth has come to its end. In 2004, China's gross domestic product (GDP) accounted for four percent of the global total, but its consumption of primary energy sources made up 12 percent of the global total, 15 percent freshwater, 25 percent aluminum oxide, 28 percent rolled steel and 50 percent cement.

Wang Mengkui, director of the State Council Development Research Center, said that 85 percent of the world's total population has entered the stage of industrialization one after the other, the sharp contradictions in global population, resources and environment have posed severe challenges to China's modernization. Even if the international market can make up the deficiency of China's resources, it is hard to bear the heavy cost entailed by ecological and environmental damage.

The problem of overheated investment emerged since 2003 has thoroughly laid bare the defects of China's old development mode and has enabled the scientific outlook on development to become a strong consensus of the whole nation.

Reports say that enhancing independent innovative capability, transforming the mode of economic growth, developing a recycling economy and building a resources-conservation and environmental friendly society, and following a new road to industrialization will all become the strategic goal of the "11th Five-Year Plan", what these keywords describe is also China's new pattern of development.

Analysts point out that during the "11th Five-Year Plan" period, the integration of China's economy and the world economy will reach an unprecedented breadth and depth, what development modality China chooses will exert important influence on the world. In this sense, only when China realizes scientific development, is it possible to bring about internal "harmonious development" and external "peaceful development".