In August 2009, the People's Republic of China (PRC) began sea trials with its newly constructed Harmony 7000 three-person submersible. Capable of diving to 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), it is the world's deepest-diving manned vehicle.
This development marks another step forward for China's emerging undersea technology programs. Beginning in the late 1990s, it developed 20,000-foot-capable (6,000-meter) remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles, with significant assistance provided by Russia, Canada, and the United States.
A considerable amount of national pride is tied to this program. The deep-diving "bathyscaphe" was first announced in 2004 as part of the nation's Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-05). Academician Jin Xianglong of the China Academy of Engineering noted, "If China wants to quickly become a strong nation, we must shift our strategic objective toward the sea, conquer the underwater space, and be a strong marine power." Further, China's press agency, Xinhua News, wrote, "The national underwater program will be given equal importance to China's space endeavors."