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China's Secret Scientific Megaprojects 142

Posted by timothy
from the that's-nothing-you-should-see-north-korea's dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Diplomat reports on the 2006 National Medium to Long-term Plan (MLP) for the Development of Science and Technology, China's most ambitious national science and technology plan to date. The MLP consists of sixteen megaprojects — both civilian and military — that serve as 'S&T vanguard programs designed to transform China's science & technology capabilities in areas such as electronics, semiconductors, [and] telecommunications.' Thirteen of the megaprojects are listed in the MLP, while three are classified for national security reasons. The three classified megaprojects are likely the military components of the Shenguang Laser Project (used for thermonuclear weapons), the Beidou 2 Satellite Navigation System, and the Hypersonic Vehicle Technology Project."
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China's Secret Scientific Megaprojects

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    is not for thermonuclear weapon but for laser weapon.

    • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:12PM (#44747889)

      The article refers to it as Shenguang Laser Project for Inertial Confinement Fusion, which may give a clue about what it's primarily for. It's apparently the Chinese equivalent of USA's National Ignition Facility.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Is what happens if china funds and develops fusion technology in the next two decades, and using it's plethora of foreign owned companies, patents/trade secrets the technology, thus giving them 30 years of control over cheap ubiquitous energy, while the rest of us fight over the ever dwindling scraps of fossil fuel?

        Hell, they might be able to keep it all in-country and just provide energy services from their borders at just cheap enough to bankrupt the competition rates.

        • Is what happens if china funds and develops fusion technology in the next two decades, and using it's plethora of foreign owned companies, patents/trade secrets the technology, thus giving them 30 years of control over cheap ubiquitous energy, while the rest of us fight over the ever dwindling scraps of fossil fuel?

          If they keep it all to themselves, then there won't be much impact - the rest of the economy is large enough to keep running on fossil fuels. There is plenty of natural gas around, especially if

        • If they develop better technology sooner then..... THEY WIN. This is a good argument that if we don't want to LOSE we should put more effort into developing new technology.

          In the 1800's China made the mistake of falling off the technology curve. As a result they were beaten and humiliated by the advanced technology of the western powers. Revenge would be poetic and well deserved, but personally I'd like to not be on the receiving end.

        • Is what happens if china funds and develops fusion technology in the next two decades, and using it's plethora of foreign owned companies, patents/trade secrets the technology, thus giving them 30 years of control over cheap ubiquitous energy, while the rest of us fight over the ever dwindling scraps of fossil fuel?

          Hell, they might be able to keep it all in-country and just provide energy services from their borders at just cheap enough to bankrupt the competition rates.

          WTF are you about, AC?

          "Thirty years of cheap, ubiquitous energy" - from fusion? The technology whose demonstrator sites (that don't actually produce power, just consume it) cost tens of billions of dollars? The technology that has yet to create positive amounts of energy in a fashion that doesn't tend to vaporize the surrounding countryside? That 'secret'? Or 'cheap'?

          Not to mention the problem of preventing others from borrowing the technology should it ever actually work out. You realize that a Chinese

        • by gatkinso (15975)

          Then Russia copies it and sells it for next to nothing.

        • ...what happens if china funds and develops fusion technology in the next two decades, and using it's plethora of foreign owned companies, patents/trade secrets the technology...

          Then they get to learn that karma is a bitch.

        • I will tell you what would happen in that admittedly unlikely scenario of China discovering cheap fusion power.

          Prices for oil, gas and other energy sources would decrease as China decreased its non-fusion consumption. Neighbors of China may also decrease their non-fusion energy consumption as China could sell them energy over any existing grids.

          So, in the short term things actually improve for non-China economies as if they are still on fossil fuels at this point, they just got cheaper and if they ar
      • It's apparently the Chinese equivalent of USA's National Ignition Facility.

        Except that it will probably work sooner...

        • by godel_56 (1287256)

          It's apparently the Chinese equivalent of USA's National Ignition Facility.

          Except that it will probably work sooner...

          Yes, it's 15 years away (and always will be) instead of the usual 20 years away (ditto) for western fusion projects.

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            The flying car has been 5-10 years away for about 50 years now. How long until I can power my skycar with Mr. Fusion?

      • The NIF is 95% a weapons project, and likely this is as well.

        The complex parts of high-technology nuclear weapons are not nuclear physics, that part is firmly established. The complexity is in the radiative transfer, fluid mechanics and equations of state in extreme conditions.

        These kinds of fusion projects (NIF) simulate the multi-stage (indirect drive) radiation driven compression of nuclear fuel. The goal is to get clean calibration data for the simulation software used to make weapons without full nucl
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It would be nice if the US would co-operate with the Chinese on fusion and on space projects. The ESA was happy to work with them on the ISS and the Chinese were interested, so why the shitty attitude from your side of the pond?

        • by rasmusbr (2186518)

          I'm not personally guilty since I'm not in the US or a US citizen or involved in the NIF project, but I suspect that mbkennel's answer contains a clue to why there isn't a lot of cooperation on the laser fusion projects. The results will be useful if and when it is time to build new hydrogen bombs. The main reason why the US and China have nukes is so that they can point them at one another and at Russia, which could be an obstacle when it comes to cooperation.

          USA, China, EU and Russia are all partners in t

    • Or a 1970's band.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    From the article:
    the “Two Weapons, and One Satellite” science and technology development plan

    Nothing good came from that project...

  • We're safe (Score:5, Funny)

    by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:06PM (#44747833) Homepage Journal
    They haven't started on the project framework factory [joelonsoftware.com] project.
    When that one completes, the Eschaton shall surely be immanentized.
    • Some people don't like Joel (probably the J2EE guys) but he really does have some good things to say about software development. The project framework factory sounds like something that only the Architecture Astronauts [joelonsoftware.com] could love.
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:07PM (#44747837) Journal
    Are they sure they translated everything properly, and China isn't actually going to weaponize My Little Pony?
  • You know when you're playing Civ and another player builds a wonder you wanted. Thats what this feels like and I expect more to follow.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am tired of seeing old white men who have a sense of entitlement acting like
    they run the world.

    The west has had a good run, but it is time for the next wave.

    Bring it on.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:15PM (#44747923)

      You so funny. Let's jot down a quick list of things that will likely cripple China within the next 20 years.

      - Slowing economy
      - Massive population
      - The food shortage of the century
      - Fresh water
      - Municipal incompetence
      - Gross amounts of industrial pollution

      And those are just broad points. China's government is so corrupt that it's highly unlikely it will actually serve the people in any measurable manner.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:56PM (#44748459)

        What makes you think they won't just take everyone else's food, money, and water?

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Piss poor military technology engineering.
        • ....and single women, since they're still running about 20% short on those
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            So the best thing we can do to bring about the fall of China is mail order Chinese brides?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Interesting times ahead for China. Their govt will likely collapse within the next decade.
        Most experts agree that without at least a 10% on year growth civil unrest will become unsustainable. There just won't be enough jobs and resources and money to cover the gross inefficiency and lack of real governing ability their form of government affords. (A corrupt dictatorship that pays favor to a privileged few) Most Chinese are aware of the problems in their country. They say they put up with it for the "Greater

        • by khallow (566160)

          Most experts agree that without at least a 10% on year growth civil unrest will become unsustainable.

          Then most experts are full of shit. As long as economic growth is significant greater than population growth, there will be an increase in per capita wealth.

      • 24% of China's population will be over 60 in 20 years while just 17% of the US. The US has both a higher birth rate and immigration rate than most other developed or semi-developed countries. Each "only child" in China may be supporting two living parents and up to four living grandparents.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Each "only child" in China may be supporting two living parents and up to four living grandparents.

          With massive robotization in the process of being introduced in Chinese factories, is that really an issue? Productivity was bound to increase (slightly) even without robotization.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          The increased liklihood of families living together seems to limit the effect of that. The "over 60" will be contributing to the economy by reducing child-care expenses, watching the little ones while the younger people work. People in the US seem less likely to live multi-generational in a single household.
      • by DarthVain (724186)

        You missed two.
        -Massive population
        a) Demographically most of that population will be old soon, with a small (relatively of course) working base supporting it.
        b) Demographically most of the younger population will be men, with no marriageable prospects, and thus a generation with much less children. (Due to the 1 child policy and the "preference" of families to have a boy child.

        People talk about Japan, and even the West and the baby boomers, aging population, and collapse

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:16PM (#44747933) Homepage Journal

      Is the solution to one group thinking it can "crush" the others having another group "crush" the first, or everybody learning to work with each other, regardless of which plot of land they happened to be born on?

      • by bdwebb (985489)
        Thank you for some logic! From the parent:

        I am tired of seeing old white men who have a sense of entitlement acting like they run the world.

        While I'm white, I'm not old and I'm not running anything. If China crushes the EU and US, all people in the EU and US are crushed regardless of race. They may get the old white guys, too, but I think the more likely consequence is that the people of the EU and US suffer far far worse.

        How about we work towards something together instead of trying to thwart progress by trying to crush one another all the time.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          You are afraid that China selling more trains to South America than the US or Europe will really affect your daily life? China isn't looking to "crush" anyone or harm anyone, but to bring up China to a world-class economy without pulling a USSR (oops, too much enrichment, they are fighting back). It'll only harm the US if the US is stupid, which we have been for the last 20+ years.
          • by bdwebb (985489)

            You are afraid that China selling more trains to South America than the US or Europe will really affect your daily life? China isn't looking to "crush" anyone or harm anyone, but to bring up China to a world-class economy without pulling a USSR (oops, too much enrichment, they are fighting back). It'll only harm the US if the US is stupid, which we have been for the last 20+ years.

            Err...I think you missed my point. The AC said he wanted China to crush the EU and US because old white men run things and have a sense of entitlement and I said hey why don't we not crush anyone and stop being dicks to one another. I didn't indicate that I was scared that China selling trains to South America would have any effect on me at all or anything to that effect...I just said that if China crushes the EU and US like the AC desperately hopes, it doesn't effect the old white guys nearly as much as

    • by khallow (566160)
      By the time China does such a thing, most of the population won't be old, white men. Excuse me, but I have to go act like I'm running the world.

      The west has had a good run, but it is time for the next wave.

      Ever consider running your own affairs rather than having them run by someone else?

  • by duckintheface (710137) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:15PM (#44747915)
    Since WW2, the US has had a huge lead in science and tech, in part due to the lack of competition from countries that were severely damaged by the war. China is the second largest economy in the world and is the first "command economy" to actually offer competition in innovation to the US. US companies have long argued that the free market was the best way to produce cutting edge innovation. Aside from the defense arena, that is how most tech has been developed.... without an overarching central plan. Now US tech faces a concerted, planned, and nationally funded challenge from China. If the MLP innitiatives are successful in moving China ahead of the US in the targeted areas of research, it will be the end of the hands-off approach of the US government.
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:20PM (#44747985)

      It's never so simple. The US claims to be a free market, but in reality the government extensively subsidizes some industries and penalizes others, and is the single largest purchaser in the country. China claims to be a communist success story, but in reality the government long ago realized that it isn't practical to command an entire economy and turned to the free market to set prices and determine manufacture of most goods - it is the private sector that forms the mighty Chinese manufacturing base, not the government.

      They really aren't as far apart as many want to believe.

      • it is the private sector that forms the mighty Chinese manufacturing base, not the government

        Sure, if you consider the PLA part of the private sector. PLA enterprises do largely work within a market system though.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          PLA "owns" industry like the US banks own industry. The US and China are very close, but love to argue about terminology (well, at least the lower middle class Americans love to argue terminology to explain why they are better than the Chinese).
      • DARPA is the US Ministry of Planning. The people in America who actually know WTF they are doing give it a nice militaristic name to get the twits in Congress to keep funding it, but let's not be stupid about this. Its job is the same as any other ministry of planning, in Russia, China, or Japan --- to look into the future, make guesses as to where technology is going, and try to steer research in such a way as to benefit (for some meaning of "benefit") the US (for some meaning of "US"). Where the US has a
        • WTF is wrong with the Slashdot editing system that it never preserves carriage returns? EVERY TIME I try to write a nice, carefully structured piece, with logical paragraphs, and it gets vomited up as this single glob of text, like I'm an illiterate troll.
          • The default settings expect you to use HTML formatting - enclose your paragraphs between <p> and </p> tags, or put a <br> in for line breaks.

            Or you can just change the settings to use plain text.

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            You can use

            To preserve carriage returns. Extra characters, but more effective open-triangle-bracket "br" close-triangle-bracket. Try it, you can use preview to look, and not actually post it.
    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:40PM (#44748259)

      China is the second largest economy in the world and is the first "command economy" to actually offer competition in innovation to the US.

      The first? Better check out which country put the first satellite into orbit and the first man into space, and which country had the first ballistic missiles and jet aircraft.

      • The Russians offered military competition because (as we discovered after the fall of Communism) they were sacrificing everything else in their country to pay for the military. Russia never offered economic competition or competition in innovation outside of the military arena. The real long term battle is economic and not military.
        • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:58PM (#44748479)

          they were sacrificing everything else in their country to pay for the military

          Sounds familiar.

        • You're moving the goalposts. Your original post referred to "competition in innovation". If the Soviet space accomplishments as innovation, I don't know what does. It's also a dual-use technology, not strictly military. Moreover, even as far as the purely military technology goes, that doesn't count as innovation?

    • by Khashishi (775369) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:47PM (#44748349) Journal

      The Soviets offered some real competition back in the day.

    • by duckintheface (710137) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:49PM (#44748367)
      SuricouRaven, you are correct that China has turned to free enterprise at the micro level to set prices and allocate resources. No argument there. But China still has a command economy at the macro level, setting overall goals and choosing winners and losers in the marketplace. A recent example is that the Chinese government has forced all the rare earth mining companies in the country to join a government consortium which controls access at the source. This is part of a plan to make China pre-eminent in high-tech manufacturing using rare earths. I'm saying that China has a plan. The US has no industrial or innovation plan. So we will see which system works better. If US companies focus on short term profit instead of long term innovation, I think this will be the last time they do that. The US government will step in to secure our future.
      • by eleuthero (812560)
        It could be that I am missing part of your point, but isn't the indirect stimulation of DARPA projects, green energy investment, etc. a part of the US government's way of responding to the potential threat of a foreign unified macro-economy?
      • by khallow (566160)

        The US government will step in to secure our future.

        Previous US government steps to secure our future are why the US has so many short term viewpoints in the private sector. If you reward a behavior, such as short term thinking, then it gets worse.

        And of course, the obvious solution is for the US government to baby us even more so that we are even less prepared to deal with the future. I'm sure this will turn out well.

    • by khallow (566160)

      it will be the end of the hands-off approach of the US government.

      What hands-off approach? The US spends gobs of money and directs plenty of research. It just doesn't do that particularly well even for a government.

      And what "first 'command economy'"? Both Russia and Japan predate this and they were able to offer such competition (Japan still does).

      I'm also a bit amused by the insistence that this time around directed research will show the folly of relying on "hands-off" research. If directed research were that effective, especially when practiced by the US, then it

    • If the MLP innitiatives are successful in moving China ahead of the US in the targeted areas of research, it will be the end of the hands-off approach of the US government.

      The Chinese are known for stealing the ideas and intellectual efforts of others, not so much for creating their own. They are followers, not leaders in tech. So far they've managed to close the gap by shamelessly stealing every technology that they can get their hands on, but what have they done themselves that's innovative and wasn't done first in the US or Europe? Nothing that I can remember and that's why they're still second fiddle to the US in research and development.

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:15PM (#44747921)
    All that great technology and wealth is meaningless if you live in a toxic environment.
    • Hope one of those megaprojects is to clean the air

      Nope, but one of them is a Ringworld [wikipedia.org]. They have figured that at this points its gonna be cheaper to just buy a new one instead of fixing the old one.

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      China does not really need to invent anything to clean up its air. They need to absorb technology and regulation from the west.

      Scrubbing exhaust from all coal fired plants and enforcing that all cars must have functioning catalytic converters would probably solve a lot of the air quality problems that they have.

      • by Xiaran (836924)
        And on top of that it really wasn't that long ago that Western nations were doing just the same as China is currently. It wasn't really until the 60s-70s that the US friends started passing serious environmental protection laws.
    • by Khashishi (775369)

      which is why China is investing a lot of money in fusion energy

      • by khallow (566160)
        Well, I hope China at least is investing in fusion technology that is expected to work inside of a few human lifetimes.
    • If one of them is fusion energy, as it appears to be...then yes it is. They'll be able to stop polluting, actively clean their atmosphere and then they'll be all gung-ho about environmental initiatives like carbon trading when they're holding the clean and abundant energy.

      Fusion race tiem?

    • Clean energy might help a bit with the "toxic environment" angle of things. At least it would help reduce further pollution.

      • Clean energy might help a bit with the "toxic environment" angle of things. At least it would help reduce further pollution.

        Yeah, but fusion power costs too much to research and we have plenty of engineers to clean up the polluted tiles whenever they pop up.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Free Energy (if it ever happens) will so fundamentally change thinking that it's hard to conceive of the results. Pollution would be a good thing. You'd then mine the atmosphere for elements, and combine them as you see fit. Yes, with 100% free energy, you could pump trillions of tons of air through cleaners, and make cars out of the pollution (though likely, that wouldn't happen exactly that way, but it'd be at least possible, and with "free energy" economically viable. Cleaning the air is trivial with
  • The Chinese have already succeeded in their main mega-project: Chinese restaurants. While mostly salt, fat, and MSG, Americans gobble it down and feel they are eating healthy because there is a piece of broccoli in there somewhere.
    • Bah. For all their popularity, Chinese restaurants have not displaced the mighty hamburger or the ubiquitous pizza. Mexican restaurants are giving them a run for their money too.

      • Most people don't consider those healthy. Doesn't matter, most people probably know that Chinese food isn't really health food either. It just tastes good. Actually, it sounds pretty good right now. Time for lunch!
  • FTA:

    Technology transfers, foreign R&D investment, and training of Chinese scientists and engineers at research institutes and corporations overseas are part of China’s “indigenous innovation” drive to identify, digest, absorb, and reinvent select technological capabilities, both in civil and military domains.

    Approaches that the US government happily facilitates. I'm all for competition (in civilian sectors anyway), but I am opposed to us bending over backwards to give our stuff to the other side.

  • Sharktopus!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should focus their energy on the "Lift 900 Million people out of $2/day" megaproject, or the "move away from an export and build a consumer economy" megaproject, although I guess they wanted to go for something that's achievable.

    Although to be honest, these projects do fit within China's key areas of concern. Their economy is on shaky ground; they're too reliant on the rest of the world buying their products for cheap; the global recession proved the danger of that. They also have a populace clamorin

    • by mi (197448)

      They should focus their energy on the "Lift 900 Million people out of $2/day" megaproject, or the "move away from an export and build a consumer economy" megaproject

      Why should China bother with that, if the United States and the rest of the Western world spend their still-considerable energies on those subjects — despite not having any such poor people among their citizenry for decades?

      And when we here aren't thinking of that, we work on disciplines like "Wymen's Issues" and "Social Studies"... It i

    • Do you want a world with 2+ billion middle class citizens greedy and wasteful like western culture?

      I mean its all grand to sit in your 1/2 million dollar home you can't afford, sipping Starbucks while your Tesla beams its charging status to your iPhone and smack your hand down on a table and demand that the Chinese population earn the same kind of living you do, but China is doing what most other Western countries did to establish their "foundations".

      I mean there was a time in US history, not TOO long ago,

      • Or didn't the US start on a foundation of slaves building the infrastructure of the country?

        No, it didn't. Slaves mostly grew cotton and the like. Railroads, canals, etc. were built by free labor, even if not always under the best of conditions.

        Moreover, slavery had little to do with the productive output of the US, and everything to do with the distribution of wealth and income. US cotton production soared after the Civil War (as compared to the antebellum levels). Aside from the obvious immorality of slavery, the economic reality is that free labor is more productive.

        • SkepticalOptimist needs to be more skeptical of the stories and modern myths his teachers taught him. e.g. 1. The 'black man' did not build America, slaves are lousy workers. 2. Smallpox lives 24 hours on a blanket.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @02:15PM (#44748675)

    But while Western governments twiddle their thumbs in their respective senates or congress figuring out how to recover from a devastating decline in the economy with a mounting ecological deficit and can't do anything without gauging public opinion from the largely idiot masses when it comes to any kind of "super-project", China will most likely solve most of the world's problems in energy and climate change.

    Surprisingly the country with past human right violations may actually save humanity, while countries that promote the idea they protect human rights sit and let the world rot while their ineffective politicians quibble in their grand ballrooms of democracy.

    Of course if China's economy collapses under the weight and pressure of these super-projects, the world is fucked.

    • by eyenot (102141)

      "Surprisingly the country with past human right violations"

      What a cheap statement. That applies equally well to any first rate country in the world, today. Especially America and China.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by eyenot (102141)

        In case anyone on Slashdot isn't already quite aware of this, the history of the United States of America since its foundation is basically one long, continuous freefall deeper into a hole of human rights violations.

    • can't do anything without gauging public opinion from the largely idiot masses

      A group of which you are not a member, of course.

  • The list (Score:5, Informative)

    by CODiNE (27417) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @02:47PM (#44749117) Homepage

    The 13 published Megaprojects.

      Core electronic components, high-end general use chips and basic software products
      Large-scale integrated circuit manufacturing equipment and techniques
      New generation broadband wireless mobile communication networks
      Advanced numeric-controlled machinery and basic manufacturing technology
      Large-scale oil and gas exploration
      Large advanced nuclear reactors
      Water pollution control and treatment
      Breeding new varieties of genetically modified organisms
      Pharmaceutical innovation and development
      Control and treatment of AIDS, hepatitis, and other major diseases
      Large aircraft
      High-definition earth observation system
      Manned spaceflight and lunar probe programs

  • But that was already built in Los Angeles last turn, so the great project was converted to 300 shields instead and promptly lost to corruption because Beijing had neglected to build a courthouse earlier in the game.

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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