Archive for the ‘Lunar’ Category

China tries to shrug off cold and celebrate Year of the Rat

February 7, 2008
by Karl Malakunas

BEIJING (AFP) – China welcomed in the Year of the Rat Thursday with a bonanza of fireworks and festivals, but the celebrations for many were subdued due to ferocious cold weather that kept them from their families.

A family walk on steps printed with a portrait of a rat during ... 
A family walk on steps printed with a portrait of a rat during the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Beijing. China has welcomed in the Year of the Rat with a bonanza of fireworks and festivals, but the celebrations for many were subdued due to ferocious cold weather that kept them from their families.
(AFP/Teh Eng Koon )

Explosions of colour could be seen in the skies of Beijing and across China in a centuries-old fireworks tradition that is meant to scare off evil spirits but this year also sought to raise national morale after the horror cold snap.While the fireworks brought much delight, they also led to at least one fatality, dozens of injuries and a spate of fires in Beijing alone, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The start….

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Vietnam: Tet Offensive 40 Years Ago

February 5, 2008

By Uwe Siemon-Netto

Forty years ago today, I witnessed the start of the most perplexing development in the 20th century – America’s self-betrayal during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

The reason why I have never ceased wrestling with this event is this: On the one hand, Tet ended in a clear military victory for the United States and its South Vietnamese allies, who killed 45,000 communist soldiers and destroyed their infrastructure.

On the other hand, the major U.S. media persuaded Americans that Tet was a huge setback for their country. As a result, Tet marked the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which consequently ended in defeat when South Vietnam fell in 1975.

A parade to mark the 40 the anniversary of theTet Offensive ...
A parade to mark the 40 the anniversary of theTet Offensive is seen in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. The Tet offensive of 1968 was a massive attack by the North Vietnamese on Tet, lunar new year, and it was a turning point of the Vietnam War.
(AP Photo)

I was there, as Far East correspondent of the Axel Springer group of German newspapers, Jan. 30, 1968, when 85,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops struck 36 of the South’s 44 provincial capitals.

Two days earlier, a French officer in Laos had tipped me off that something spectacular was about to occur during the cease-fire for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. “You’d better return to Saigon,” he said.

At 3 a.m. on Jan. 31, I stood opposite the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, watching a fierce firefight between Marines and Viet Cong attackers, some of whom were already inside the Embassy compound.

Some days later, I was in the company of Marines fighting their way into communist-occupied Hué, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, 600 miles north of Saigon. We found its streets strewn with the corpses of hundreds of women, children and old men, all shot execution-style by North Vietnamese invaders.

I made my way to Hué’s university apartments to obtain news about friends of mine, German professors at the medical school. I learned that their names had been on lists containing some 1,800 Hué residents singled out for liquidation.

Six weeks later the bodies of doctors Alois Altekoester, Raimund Discher and Horst-Guenther Krainick and Krainick’s wife, Elisabeth, were found in shallow graves they had been made to dig for themselves.

Then, enormous mass graves of women and children were found. Most had been clubbed to death, some buried alive; you could tell from the beautifully manicured hands of women who had tried to claw out of their burial place.

As we stood at one such site, Washington Post correspondent Peter Braestrup asked an American T.V. cameraman, “Why don’t you film this?” He answered, “I am not here to spread anti-communist propaganda.”

There was a time when Hué was the most anti-American city in South Vietnam, to wit, a graffito outside the villa of the dowager empress, which read, “Chat Dau My” (cut the Americans’ throats). But this changed as a result of Viet Cong atrocities. Now the word “My” (American) was replaced with “Cong” (communists).

Many reporters accompanying U.S. and South Vietnamese forces realized and reported that the fortunes of war and the public mood had changed in their favor, principally because of the war crimes committed by the communists, especially in Hue, where 6,000-10,000 residents were slaughtered.

But the major media gave the Tet story an entirely different spin. CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite, for example, flew briefly into Saigon. When he returned to New York he told his 22 million nightly viewers:

“It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who have lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”

In other words, Cronkite said, “Oops, we lost,” when, in truth, the biggest engagement in this war was militarily won. Two decades on, I was a chaplain intern in a VA hospital working with former Vietnam combatants. They were broken men. Most had been called baby killers on their return home. Their wives or girlfriends, and in some cases even pastors, had abandoned them.

Many had attempted suicide or withdrawn into the wilderness.

And almost all thought that their country, even God, had turned their backs on them. There was a time when I loved my craft as a reporter passionately. Vietnam changed this. It taught me the appalling consequence of journalistic hubris, which gave the media, meaning all of us, an enduring bad name.

Uwe Siemon-Netto is a guest lecturer in Lutheran theology at Concordia University in Irvine, California.

For China, Students Educated In U.S. Might Never Return “Home”

February 5, 2008

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 5, 2008; Page A14

CAOTANG, China — This week in Caotang village, members of the Huang family were preparing for the Chinese New Year by making traditional dishes, scrubbing their already spotless homes and paying their respects to the family patriarch.
They were also discussing the fortunes of one of their most promising members, Huang He, a film and television student. In 2006, after 10 years of study in Northern Virginia and Michigan, Huang returned to China. Now, at the dawn of the Year of the Rat — a symbol of prosperity — he is contemplating heading back to the United States for work.

“I’m caught in between. My friends think I should set my feet firmly in the U.S. because I have already spent so much time there,” said Huang, who wonders who will look after his parents if he leaves. “I’m not really lost. I’m not panicked. I’m just looking for my next opportunity and my next home.”

Huang, 36, is a “sea turtle,” one of the thousands of students who return to China each year after spending time abroad. For many of them, a visit to their family villages during the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is near mandatory. But such visits also force them to confront changes in modern China — changes that may prompt them to swim away again.

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China Confirms Man Killed in Stampede; Winter Chaos Continues

February 3, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Government officials of China confirmed on Sunday an earlier report that a rail worker was crushed to death on Friday at Guangzhou as 260,000 people besieged the railroad station.

The government said the incident was regretable and that the army was being used to maintain order.  More than one million army troops have been deployed to remove snow and ice and to serve as crowd control, especially at mobbed rail centers.

Policemen try to control the crowd during a stampede outside ...
Policemen try to control the crowd during a stampede outside a railway station in China’s southern city of Guangzhou February 3, 2008. A stampede at Guangzhou railway station killed one person when frustrated passengers rushed to board trains after days of cancellations because of fierce cold and snow, police confirmed on Sunday.

The Associated Press reported that railway service inched back to normal Sunday in southern China,  just after one person died in a stampede caused by frustrated train passengers who were stranded for days because of snow ahead of the important Lunar New Year holiday.

More than 10,000 vehicles were backed up on an icy section of a highway in central China’s Hunan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.  The vehicles were backed up for nearly 45 miles, even though workers were removing ice from the roads Sunday.

Fog further snarled traffic in central China on Saturday and Sunday.

The freakish weather is now in its fourth week, throttling the country’s densely populated central and eastern regions as tens of millions of travelers scramble to board trains and buses to return home for this month’s holiday.

In southern China passenger train travel was deemed “nearing normal” the government said.

The trains are also needed to move vast amounts of coal, which provides much of China’s electricity.

Normally coal mines use the week-long holiday that starts Wednesday to cut production so equipment repairs can be carried out and their workers can go home, but this year more than 80% of the state-owned mines will run full blast, the State Administration of Working Safety said.


Snowstorms damage China’s reputation

A man rolls a snow ball after a heavy snow in Hangzhou, in east ...
A man rolls a snow ball after a heavy snow in Hangzhou, in east China’s Zhejiang province Saturday Feb. 2, 2008. Heavy fog fell over parts of central China on Sunday, further clogging a transport system already paralyzed by weeks of snow, a day after one person died in a stampede by frustrated train passengers stranded for days.
(AP Photo)

Blizzard Strikes: What Happens in China Different From in the U.S.?

China warns of “tough task” in snow relief

Vietnam: Purchasing power increases sharply on pre-Tet days

January 31, 2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Citimart in HCM City said that half of the 10 tons of goods it had reserved for Tet have been sold out, while Phu An Sinh Poultry Slaughtering Company has arranged 600 more tons of chicken to sell on pre-Tet days, an increase of 30% over last year.
Ngo Van Hai, Business Deputy General Director of Citimart, said that the prices of all commodities are 20-30% higher than last year. Commodities are all getting more and more expensive towards Tet.
“A lot of clients are complaining that the quoted prices for the same commodities are increasing day by day. It is not our fault, we have to raise prices because producers are making goods more expensive,” Mr.
Hai said.
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A carp is released to Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi,Vietnam, Wednesday, ...
A carp is released to Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi,Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, for a ceremony of Tet, Vietnamese New Year. Traditionally, Vietnamese families offer three carps to the three kitchen guardians when the three guardians returns to heaven on the 23rd day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, which is on Wednesday this year. After the ceremony the fish are released to ponds, lakes or river.
(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Asia’s space race heats up as China heads for moon

October 24, 2007

by Robert J. Saiget

BEIJING (AFP) – Asia’s space race heated up on Wednesday as China launched its first lunar orbiter, an event hailed by the world’s most populous nation as a milestone event in its global rise.

China’s year-long expedition, costing 1.4 billion yuan (184 million dollars), kicks off a programme that aims to land an unmanned rover on the moon’s surface by 2012 and put a man on the moon by about 2020.

The launch of Chang’e I, which will explore and map the moon’s surface, came after Japan last month launched ….

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High Tech meets peasant farmers in China.  Background:
China’s Lunar mission is ready for launch.  Foreground:
Peasant farmers evacuate prior to launch today, October
24, 2007.  Note the lady with the big hat is carrying her
rice cooker. Photo from the Communist Party news service

China: Countdown To Space Ambitions, Moon Landing

China: Countdown To Space Ambitions, Moon Landing

October 24, 2007

By Hu Yinan
China Daily
October 24, 2007

China’s space ambitions are at least six centuries old.

It all began when Wan Hu, an official of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), became the earliest documented pioneer of rocket flight in both China and the world.

One day in the early 16th century, in an ambitious attempt to fly to outer space, he bundled himself into a chair attached to 47 rockets while holding a large kite in each hand.

The final result was fatal. Wan died in an explosion of rockets.

It would take another 600 years until manned spaceflight became a reality for China.

A crater on the moon has been named after Wan, and today’s expected launch of China’s first lunar probe will herald in a new era for the country’s space ambitions to achieve a successful moon landing by 2012.

The initiative was announced in 2004, after China’s moon quest had been marred by decades of setbacks in its research and development (R&D).

China’s modern space ambitions originated from a report proposed by world-recognized scientist Qian Xuesen, or Tsien Hsue-Shen, eight months after his 1955 return to the mainland after spending two decades in the US.

A young visitor walks past a part of the Chinese space rocket displayed at Science and Technology Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, on Wednesday October 24, 2007.

His report led to the establishment of a national research institute on rockets and missiles in 1956. Two years later, the State leadership under Chairman Mao allocated a then-massive 200 million yuan to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for the R&D of a homegrown satellite.

But three years of natural disasters (1958-61) and the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) that followed delayed the program. China launched a Soviet R-2 missile in 1960 and began work on Shuguang-1, a human spaceflight program in 1966. However, it was not until April 24, 1970 that China successfully launched its first satellite, the Dongfanghong-1 (DFH-1).

In 1971, 19 astronauts were selected for Shuguang-1, a two-man capsule to be launched before the end of 1973. Yet the project was eventually discontinued due to budget constraints. Mao gave the final say: “Pause manned spaceflight for a while. Take care of terrestrial affairs first; let space come later.”

That “while” proved to be a long and troublesome one, recalled Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the lunar probe project, whose research began with 0.5 grams of a lunar sample in 1978.

Until then, Ouyang said lunar research in China had concentrated on studies of publicly available material from foreign explorations. And during his China visit in 1978, Zbigniew Brzezinski, then US President Jimmy Carter’s national security assistant, presented then Chinese chairman Hua Guofeng with 1 gram of lunar samples. Hua immediately forwarded the sample to research departments, which in turn gave it to Ouyang in the remote southwestern province of Guizhou.

There, about 100 other scientists gathered to investigate the sample, half of which was used for research. Then in March 1986, a letter from four senior scientists to the central government helped initiate the 863 National High-Technology R&D Program, a countermeasure to the “Star Wars” initiative of the US and EUREKA of Europe, among others.

Under the project, China reconvened feasibility studies of its homebred manned spaceflight program in the same year. Experts, however, did not reach an agreement on whether the country should proceed with a manned space program. The debate was so intense that it lasted another five years.

According to Ouyang, the origins of the Chang’e project date back to around 1992, when some scholars proposed to shoot an iron-made symbol onto the moon as a permanent Chinese print on the planet and in celebration of Hong Kong’s handover in 1997.

Then Premier Li Peng vetoed it on the grounds that the project was entirely driven by political motives, costly, and had little scientific research value, Ouyang said.

The groundwork of a genuinely viable Chang’e program began in 1994. Between then and Premier Wen Jiabao’s approval of the plan in January 2004, an entire decade was spent researching and lobbying.

The science community contributed significantly to this process, including an 863 proposal on the development of lunar probe technologies in 1997, the evaluation of lunar rover R&D plans in 1998, and a well-received seminar on lunar probe technologies organized by Tsinghua University two years later.

Official endorsement of the lunar exploration project was first illustrated with the publication of a State Council White Paper on China’s space activities in November 2000.

In the next year, a report headed by Ouyang on the scientific objectives of unmanned lunar probe, the first phase of China’s moon exploration project, was approved by the CAS. A final feasibility study was then initiated between 2001 and 2002.

“China started from scratch, and after three years of efforts has developed Chang’e I lunar orbiter and all its attendant projects,” Luan Enjie, chief commander of the program, said in an earlier interview. “The speed at which it has caught up with the necessary technology is impressive by anyone’s standards.”

Asia’s space race heats up as China heads for moon