It is named after the Long March of Chinese communist history. The Shenzhou spacecraft is launched on the Long March rocket. As of 2003, the main stages of Long March rockets use storable propellants with UDMH as fuel and N2O4 as oxidizer as well as solid booster rockets.
The Long March rocket is related to early versions of the Dongfeng missile (note that Dongfeng is the generic Chinese name for all of its land ICBM's). However, like its counterparts in both the United States and in Russian, the differing needs of space rockets and strategic missiles have caused developed of space rockets and missiles to diverge. The main goal of a space rocket is to maximize payload, while strategic missiles increasing throw weight is much less important than the ability to launch quickly and to survive a first strike. This divergence has become clear in the next generation of Long March rockets which use cryogenic propellants in sharp contrast to the next generation of strategic missiles which are mobile and solid fueled.
The PRC launched its first satellite, known as Dongfanghong 1 ("the East is Red"), to Earth orbit on its own Long March space rocket on April 24, 1970, becoming the fifth nation to achieve independent launch capability.
Most of the commercial satellite launches of Long March vehicles have been from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, located in Xichang, Sichuan province. Long March launches also take place from the more military oriented Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province from which the manned Shenzhou spacecraft also comes from.
China markets launch services under the Great Wall Industrial Corporation. Its efforts to launch communications satellites were dealt a blow in the mid-1990's after the United States stopped issuing export licenses to companies to allow them to launch on Chinese satellites out of fear that this would help China's military.