Hebei governor was a star of China's aerospace programme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am


Hebei governor Zhang Qingwei is greying slightly, but unlike most mainland leaders he does not dye his hair.

Barely 51 and formerly a top engineer and rocket scientist, he is a committed advocate of research and development.

'Vice-President Xi Jinping visited the United States recently and we [Hebei ] sent a business and trade delegation to go with him,' Zhang said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress. 'A company from Langfang offered to build a new energy industrial base in the US.'

Zhang was born in Jilin city, Jilin, in 1961, and settled in Tangshan, Hebei, with his family.

At the age of 17, he enrolled at Northwestern Polytechnical University to study aircraft design.

Zhang entered the 603rd Aircraft Design Institute four years later and in less than three years became the leader of the engineering team developing the FBC-1, a twin-engined fighter-bomber still in service with the People's Liberation Army.

He returned to Northwestern Polytechnical in 1985 and spent three years obtaining a master's degree in aircraft control.

Mainland space authorities noticed his talent and offered him an engineering job at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the birthplace of the Long March rockets.

Zhang showed exceptional talent in building rockets for international commercial launches and was promoted to a senior engineer in 1990.

He was appointed general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology in 2001 and was given his first political test in 2007, when he was appointed director of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence to guide its merger with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

He was then appointed president of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, a state-owned company that is developing China's own jumbo jets.

Zhang was appointed Hebei governor last year.