Local politicians have falsely claimed that the Obama administration has ceded "space leadership" (whatever that means) to China.
In the reality-based world, China has not launched any taikonauts since September 2008, and it looks like they won't be doing so any time soon.
Reports are emerging that China has chosen to postpone its next crewed space flight.
The Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily reports:
China will launch the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in June to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-1, a module of the country's planned space station, then launch the Shenzhou-10 next year to send astronauts into the module, the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation said yesterday.
Two or three astronauts will be sent into the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," during the Shenzhou-10 mission next year to make it a trial for China's future space station, said Zhu Yilin, a researcher on the project from the Chinese Space Technology Institute.
Space Daily columnist Morris Jones comments:
The recent announcement that China will fly its next Shenzhou spacecraft without a crew aboard is a shock. It completely goes against a tide of recent official statements and general feelings within the spaceflight community. It's also represents an abrupt change in status for China's human spaceflight program, which has been making steady strides forward with recent missions.
So much for the fear-mongering by local politicians.
UPDATE February 19, 2012 — Contradicting the above reports, SpaceFlightNow.com says that China will launch crew this summer:
China's next human spaceflight will blast off between June and August and dock with the country's Tiangong 1 orbiting laboratory module, Chinese space officials announced Friday.
The Shenzhou 9 mission will carry three astronauts on China's fourth piloted spaceflight, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
The announcement, also reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency, said the Shenzhou 9 crew will conduct a manual docking with the Tiangong 1 module. The astronauts will enter Tiangong 1's pressurized compartment to conduct space science experiments, the manned space office said.