As the Chinese space program developed during the sixties, various proposals for manned spacecraft were made. The first manned spacecraft proposed by the People's Republic of China during the late 1960s and early 1970s was the Shuguang One which was expected to bring the first Chinese astronaut in 1973 into space. For this programme 19 astronauts were selected in 1971. However, shortly after these plans were made, several leading scientists attached to the project were denounced during the Cultural Revolution, bringing progress to a standstill. Instead, NASA astronaut Taylor Wang, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, became the first ethnically Chinese person in space in 1985.
The People's Liberation Army Astronaut Corps was established in 1998 for the selection of Shenzhou program astronauts. In 2003, Yang Liwei was launched aboard Shenzhou 5, becoming the first person sent into space by the Chinese space program. This achievement made China the third country to independently send humans into space. During the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese citizen to carry out a spacewalk. In 2012, Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman to be launched into space when she was launched aboard Shenzhou 9.
As of 2017, eleven Chinese nationals have traveled in space.
|Yang Liwei||Shenzhou 5 (October 15, 2003)||First Chinese national in space. First solo man in space who was neither Soviet/Russian nor American.|
|Fei Junlong||Shenzhou 6 (October 12–16, 2005)||Commander in the first two-man Chinese crew in space.|
|Nie Haisheng||Shenzhou 6 (October 12–16, 2005)
Shenzhou 10 (June 11–26, 2013)
|First in a two-man Chinese crew in space.|
|Jing Haipeng||Shenzhou 7 (September 25–28, 2008)
Shenzhou 9 (June 16–29, 2012)
Shenzhou 11 (October 17, 2016 – November 18, 2016)
|First in a three-man Chinese crew in space. First repeat Chinese national in space. Commander in the first Chinese crew to achieve manned spacecraft docking.|
|Liu Boming||Shenzhou 7 (September 25–28, 2008)||First in a three-man Chinese crew in space.|
|Zhai Zhigang||Shenzhou 7 (September 25–28, 2008)||First Chinese national to walk in space. Commander in the first Chinese three-man crew in space.|
|Liu Wang||Shenzhou 9 (June 16–29, 2012)||First in a Chinese crew to achieve manned spacecraft docking.|
|Liu Yang||Shenzhou 9 (June 16–29, 2012)||First Chinese woman in space. First in a Chinese crew to achieve manned spacecraft docking.|
|Zhang Xiaoguang||Shenzhou 10 (June 11–26, 2013)||Conducted manned spacecraft rendezvous and docking|
|Wang Yaping||Shenzhou 10 (June 11–26, 2013)||Second Chinese female astronaut.|
|Chen Dong||Shenzhou 11 (October 17, 2016 – November 18, 2016)|
China announced that 18 people - 17 men, 1 woman, all of whose names were not revealed - had been selected as new astronauts. The positions were broken down as 7 spacecraft pilots ("aviators of the People's Liberation Army Air Force"), 7 flight engineers ("former researchers or technicians in aeronautics, astronautics and other related fields"), and 4 mission payload specialists ("those involved in space science and through applications for China's manned space program").