The country's first-ever quantum satellite has transmitted potentially unbreakable data from space to Earth for the first time.
China is planning to launch more space science satellites in the coming years after the success of planned experiments with the world's first quantum satellite.
China sent a stream of quantum encryption keys from a satellite to earth in the first trial of its "hack-proof" communication system.
China envisions a future with ground-based QKD networks and a global satellite system interacting to form a powerful, worldwide secure network. "To increase the coverage, we plan to send satellites to higher orbits and construct a satellite constellation, which requires developing many new technologies". According to commentators, while typical encryption relied on traditional mathematics and while for now it was more or less adequate and safe from hacking, the development of quantum computing threatened that.
"QKD allows two distant users, who do not share a long secret key initially, to produce a common, random string of secret bits, called a secret key", the researchers explained in a paper published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
"Using the one-time pad encryption this key is proven to be secure ... to encrypt (and decrypt) a message, which can then be transmitted over a standard communication channel".
Data transmission rates possible with satellites are about 20 orders of magnitude more efficient that fibre-optic cables, Jianwei Pan, lead scientist on the Chinese project, told Reuters. Also, any attempt to measure the message will distort or damage the data.
"Once intercepted or measured, the quantum state of the key will change, and the information being intercepted will self-destruct".
China is still lagging behind the United States and Russian Federation when it comes to space technology.
If the satellite-based quantum key distribution from these experiments could be integrated with quantum networks in major metro areas, it could enable quantum cryptography on a global scale, Pan said in the Xinhua report. By 2030, China hopes to achieve its ambitious dream of establishing a global cryptography-based communication network.