China began the final countdown yesterday in its bid to become just the third nation to rocket a man into orbit, with clear skies forecast over the Gobi Desert launchpad where liftoff was due to come as soon as today. \nBut with the pride of a rising nation pinned to the mission, it was unclear whether China would risk allowing its 1.3 billion people to witness the launch live. Newspapers said state television had scuttled plans for live broadcast and station officials gave conflicting accounts of plans. \nOn Monday, mission control successfully simulated the launch of the Shenzhou V (神舟五號), or "Divine Ship," and was fuelling the spacecraft, the Lanzhou Morning Post, based in the province of Gansu, reported from the launch base in nearby Inner Mongolia. \nSome of China's leaders were due to fly there to watch Communist China's bid to realize its decades-old space dreams, Hong Kong media said. Many leaders have been closeted in Beijing grappling with more earthly concerns, such as a harrowing rich-poor gap, at a Party Central Committee plenum. \nChinese President Hu Jin-tao (胡錦濤) was expected meet the astronaut chosen for the solo flight, whose identity had yet to be confirmed. \nThe top candidate was Yang Liwei (楊利偉), 38, son of a teacher and an official at an agricultural firm, raised in Suizhong county in the northeast "rustbelt" province of Liaoning, a local party official said. \n"There's no final decision yet, but if he is announced as China's first astronaut of course we'll be very proud of him," he said by telephone. \nHe added that journalists from the People's Daily and China Youth Daily were waiting at the party offices to interview Yang after an expected announcement. \n"It was expected around 5pm," he said. \nYang was an avid ice skater and swimmer who excelled in track and field in the army, his sister and brother said in an interview with Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po, adding his grades were fair but he did well in the sciences. \nHe earned around 10,000 yuan (US$1,208) a month, it said. \nAfter months of secrecy, the official Xinhua news agency said last week the manned mission would blast off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base between today and Friday and make 14 orbits, spending approximately 21 hours in space. \nMeteorologists expect fair skies over Jiuquan on Wednesday and many Chinese were equally upbeat.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator