As excitement over China's first manned space mission begins to die down, state media has revealed the identity of an influential man behind the project: the eldest son of former president Jiang Zemin. In a recent interview with the official Guangming Daily, Jiang Mianheng, 52, the vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 1999, was revealed as one of the historic mission's four deputy chief commanders. After the successful launch of the Shenzhou V last week, the US-trained engineer hinted in the interview that he was willing to play a more high-profile role in the country's space programme. Mr Jiang admitted he had little knowledge of aerospace science but was honoured that Academy of Sciences president Lu Yongxiang 'entrusted me with the manned space project'. 'As I was not originally involved in this field, there was lots I had to learn,' he said. He said the academy had made important contributions to the development of China's space programme throughout its history, but the recent manned space flight was the biggest breakthrough in 'consolidating our country's national strength'. Mr Jiang said researchers would now focus on developing space laboratories and space stations, as well as organising a spacewalk. While stressing the importance of research and innovation, Mr Jiang said that as a developing country, China must be careful how it spent its limited government funding, or the 'blood and sweat money of its people'. Former president Jiang has been credited in official media reports with reviving the programme to get Chinese astronauts in space. Political commentators said his son's involvement in the Shenzhou project played a crucial role in rallying central government support and would have added weight to the programme's prestige. Chan Kin-man, a sociologist at Chinese University in Hong Kong, said his involvement indicated that the former president endorsed China's first manned space mission. 'If there was any failure, then Mr Jiang's son would have been involved too,' he said. The younger Mr Jiang has extensive business links and was his father's most important aide in fulfilling his vision of turning China into a hi-tech giant. Once named 'China's digital princeling', he sits on the board of several corporations in Shanghai, including state-run China Netcom.