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China to launch unhackable quantum messaging service

Matthew Field
China is creating a 2000km quantum network from Shanghai to Beijing - Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

China is preparing to launch a communications system that would be impossible to hack.

The quantum communication system is set to be used by 200 users from government, finance and military personal in the city of Jinan. 

The Jinan Institute of Quantum Technology said the technology, which was tested earlier this month, is expected to be put into commercial use in August.

The network uses quantum key distribution to transmit messages. The connections are far more secure than current internet or telephone cables, which can be tapped and monitored.

China is creating a 2000km quantum network from Shanghai to Beijing Credit: Alamy

Quantum networks, unlike traditional systems, send messages embedded in particles of light. If any third party attempts to hack the network the quantum nature of the particles will alter the communication and cause it to be aborted, meaning the message is impossible to read or intercept.

"We plan to use the network for national defence, finance and other fields, and hope to spread it out as a pilot that if successful, can be used across China and the whole world,” said Zhou Fei, assistant director of Jinan Institute of Quantum Technology, the Financial Times reported.

The development of the quantum network is the latest demonstration of China's scientific stature. It comes after the Chinese Government earlier this month said it plans to be the global leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. 

China has been building an impenetrable, "hack-proof" computer network since 2014. Last year it launched a "hack-proof" communications satellite

The quantum communications network, which will be the longest in the world, will travel 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai and pass through a message hub in Jinan.

More secure communications are needed as it is thought current encryption systems will be rendered obsolete by the sheer power of advanced quantum computers.

The new Jinan network cost £15 million to develop and is capable of encrypting 4,000 pieces of data a second, according to the China Daily.

China's obsession with security does not extend to many of its citizens. Last week, WhatsApp users in the country reported they had been blocked from sending videos or pictures. China's block on many internet giants and social networks has been dubbed the Great Firewall.

What is quantum computing?