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Xi meets Shenzhou-11 astronauts

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Top Communist Party of China (CPC) and state leadersXi Jinping,Li Keqiang,Zhang Dejiang,Yu Zhengsheng,Liu Yunshan,Wang QishanandZhang Gaolimeet with astronauts as well as representatives involved in research and testing for the country's Tiangong-2 andShenzhou-11 space mission in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 20, 2016. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)
  President Xi Jinping on Tuesday hailed China's latest achievements in space exploration and stressed the importance of scientific innovation in the field.
  Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), made the remarks while meeting astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong and others involved in research and testing for the Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 space missions.
  "The universe is vast and exploration of it will never end," Xi said, as he talked with Jing and Chen about their work and health, expressing his appreciation of their endeavors.
  "I heard that you celebrated your birthday in orbit, and have been to space three times. Moreover, it's a General who has done this. I hope you continue your good work," Xi told Jing.
  "You appear in good spirits, how is your health now?" Xi asked.
  "It is the 32nd day since we returned to Earth. Our physical indicators are very good, and we are able to play basketball now," Jing answered.
  Noting that China is implementing an innovation-driven development strategy, Xi said the strategy matters to China's future.
  Space is an important field of progress and innovation, Xi said, adding that achievements in this regard are also important symbols of a country's scientific and technological strength.
  "The success China has achieved in space science has greatly encouraged Chinese people's confidence in innovation," he said.
  With 2016 being the 60th year of China's space program, Xi said the success of the Shenzhou-11 mission was a major victory.
  China has made breakthroughs in a number of core technologies in the field through self-reliance and independent innovation, which enabled Jing and Chen to stay in orbit for longer than any previous Chinese astronauts and helps the country to become a space power.
  "We respect space science innovation, and have created a team of high-quality talent, bold in exploration and innovation," Xi said.
  Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee -- Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli -- also met the astronauts on Tuesday.
  Launched on Oct. 17, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft docked two days later with China's first space lab, Tiangong-2, where Jing and Chen lived for 30 days.

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