Rocket scientist becomes deputy governor of Zhejiang

Dr Yuan Jiajun sees his political career take off once more with plum posting

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:02pm

A veteran space scientist who rose to prominence in China’s equivalent of Nasa has been appointed the deputy governor of Zhejiang province, in a rare but not unusual move.

Dr Yuan Jiajun, 52, former commander of previous Shenzhou manned space projects, was approved for the deputy governor post, effective immediately, by the Zhejiang People’s Congress on Monday, according to the provincial government’s website.

His long list of administrative responsibilities mostly deals with maintaining stability. He will take charge of overseeing the police, controls on religion, tax collection and national security, according to a profile of Yuan on the official website.

Yuan is the second so-called “space governor” in public office, after senior rocket scientist Zhang Qingwei became governor of Hebei two years ago. Hebei is a large province neighbouring the nation’s capital, Beijing.

Yuan is known to be obsessed with “control”, a skill that made him one of the youngest commanding chiefs of China’s ambitious space projects, according to a China News Services report.

When dealing with spaceship design and production, his management style was described as “rigorous”, with “zero tolerance for flaws” and a high attention to detail.

Yuan was appointed deputy commander of the spaceship project when he was just 33 years old. By the age of 45, he was promoted to deputy general manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Five Shenzhou spaceships were launched under his direct command – all successfully. He was deputy chief of the Shenzhou 1 project, which culminated in the launch of the unmanned spacecraft in 1999 in a mission to orbit the earth for less than 24 hours, reports said.

He helmed succeeded Shenzhou projects 2 to 5 until 2003, including the first manned spacecraft that same year. The Shenzhou project has continued under different leaderships.

In 2012, Yuan left the space industry and became the deputy chairman of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. He launched one of the most ambitious energy projects in the region, building a 1,800-kilometre-long ultra-high-voltage power line to transfer electricity from coal-rich Ningxia to Zhejiang, a big consumer of power.

In Zhejiang, he will also serve as the provincial government’s contact person for state-controlled paramilitary forces and reserve regiments of the People’s Liberation Army.