China has launched the world’s longest quantum-communications network, which includes a 2,000-kilometre link between Beijing and Shanghai that is meant to safely transmit sensitive information. The line is the world’s first trunk line of secure quantum telecommunications. The Jing-Hu (Beijing-Shanghai) Trunk Line connects Beijing, Jinan, Hefei and Shanghai. The line is connected with the world’s first quantum satellite, which was launched by China in August last year, through a station in Beijing. The quantum communication satellite is connected to the Shanghai-Beijing line via a station in Beijing enabling the space-to-Earth quantum communication network.
Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), talked with staff in Hefei, Jinan, Shanghai and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, through the line. He also had a video call with Austrian quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger through the satellite .
The system is being tested in real-world applications by insurance and securities companies, banks and governments. China will now carry out more experiments with some other places in the world including Italy, Germany, Russia and Singapore to test the quantum communications.
China has announced plans to achieve Asia-Europe intercontinental quantum key distribution in 2020 and build a global quantum communication network by 2030. The network would be used by the central government, military and critical business institutions like banks.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) uses quantum mechanics to guarantee secure communication. It enables two parties to produce a shared random secret key known only to them, which can then be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. QKD is said to be nearly impossible to hack, since any attempted eavesdropping would change the quantum states and thus could be quickly detected by data flow monitors. This technology offers extremely high security, but its application is currently restricted to metropolitan area networks.
China launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite officially known as Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite. The launch took place at 17:40 UTC Monday (16th Aug 2016) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert, with a Long March 2D rocket sending the 620 kilogram (1,367 pound) satellite to a 600 kilometer (373 mile) orbit at an inclination of 97.79 degrees. “In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” Xinhua news agency said. said.
The satellite will enable secure communications between Beijing and Urumqi, Xinhua said. “The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role – from a follower in classic information technology development to one of the leaders guiding future achievements,” Pan Jianwei, the project’s chief scientist, told the agency. Quantum communications holds “enormous prospects” in the field of defense, it added.
Matthew Luce, a researcher with Defense Group Inc.’s Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, thinks “A functional satellite-based quantum communication system would give the Chinese military the ability to operate further afield without fear of message interception.”
Militaries have become dependent on Satellites that provide intelligence of adversary’s activities by capturing high resolution images, radar and communication signals, providing wide area real time communications among battle troops and command and control. However, Satellites are vulnerable to jamming, cyber-attacks and other ASAT weapons. China is also developing technologies like electronic warfare, DEW and other ASAT weapons that can disrupt its adversary’s satellites. By developing satellite based quantum cryptology China shall be able to gain information superiority over other countries as it would be able to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying its adversary’s ability to do the same.
Global Satellite Quantum Network
China is also first country to release a detailed schedule to put this technology to large-scale use. Communications satellite would be a first step toward building a quantum communications network in the sky. China hopes to complete a Asia-Europe intercontinental quantum key distribution in 2020 and build a global quantum communication network by 2030.
The team’s future plans also include making use of China’s future space station, Tiangong, which is expected to be created by the end of the decade, to conduct “upgraded” quantum experiments. “We will have a quantum experiment on the space station and it will make our studies easier because we can from time to time upgrade our experiment (unlike on the quantum satellite).
Wang Xiujun, a deputy director of the China National Internet Information Office, cited the US Stuxnet attack that crippled Iran’s nuclear facilities and the National Security Agency’s surveillance programmes revealed by the whistle-blower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as lessons for China to strengthen the security of computer networks and information systems.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for more innovation in the country’s armed forces and a new strategy for “information warfare” amid a global “military revolution,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Xi said the army must “strive to establish a new military doctrine, institutions, equipment systems, strategies and tactics and management modes” for information warfare.