In June 2016, Chinese president Xi Jinping outlined his vision for China to become the leading player in science and technology globally. Speaking at the national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, he said the country must be on course to being a leading innovator worldwide by 2030.

According to a post on the Chinese Academy of Science website, Xi said: “Great scientific and technological capacity is a must for China to be strong and for people’s lives to improve,” adding that the country and even humankind “won’t do without innovation, nor will it do if the innovation is carried out slowly.”

These are lofty words from the world’s emerging superpower. But there are some indications the country’s already well on track – here are just a few examples of technological innovation underway in China.

The world’s largest floating solar power plant was completed and connected to the local power grid in China’s Anhui province in May 2015.

This 40-megawatt solar facility is built on top of a flooded coal mining region. It is part of a vast shift in China’s use of fossil fuels. China increased its solar power output by 80 percent in the first three months of 2017, according to The Guardian.

China also completed the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, a 10-square-mile, land-based solar power plant in 2015. It is allegedly the largest solar facility on the planet.

Super solar expressway that charges electric vehicles as they drive

China is planning to build a solar expressway for self-driving cars and electric vehicles that will be able to charge them as they drive, according to the Chinese newspaper Hangzhou Daily.

Sputnik reports that the highway will be 161 kilometres in length between Hangzhou in the east of the country to the port and industrial hub of Ningbo just south east.

Automatic tolls will also feature on the proposed six-lane expressway, which is designed to increase the average traffic speed by 20 to 30 percent using smart vehicle management and relieve traffic along the Yangtze River Delta.

The lanes will be embedded with photovoltaic cells that the designers say will power cars as they drive, including self-driving vehicles.

According to the Global Times, the highway will also be fitted with sensing and monitoring equipment to reduce traffic congestion.

A shorter, one-kilometre solar expressway in China previously opened as a pilot in December 2017 in Jinan province using similar technology, but had to be closed down when it emerged thieves had stolen a large section of panelling. The first solar roadway in the company was opened in Jinan in September 2016.

Quantum Science Satellite

The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ head scientist, Pan Jianwei, recently announced that the country will undertake its first experiments with a ‘quantum satellite’ – to establish a quantum communications link between earth and space. It’s believed that, if the experiment is a success, such a satellite could greatly improve the security of data transmissions around the world.

Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)

In September this year, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope – FAST for short – is set to open its doors and become operational. First proposed in the early 90s, it will become the biggest single-aperture radio telescope on the planet, with 4,600 triangular panels. The telescope is situated in a natural basin in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, to protect the project from unwanted magnetic disruptions.

3D-printed houses

Although 3D printing is by no means new (nor is it emerging in China alone), in 2014 a Chinese company called WinSun Decoration Design Engineering managed to create a 10-house 3D-printed village in under one day.

After printing out each of the prefabricated modules, the components were lifted into place by a crane and were then ready to use. And in 2015, the same company created the world’s tallest 3D-printed building at the time.

Customised server chips with Qualcomm

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm will begin to make server chips specifically designed for the Chinese market this year, through a business owned by the Chinese government. The Guizhou province-Qualcomm collaboration was initiated because server demand in the country is expected to eventually outpace that of the US – and for political reasons, China is beginning to clamp down on technology produced from outside its borders. According to the Wall Street Journal, Qualcomm president Derek Aberle has said the project will address security concerns with a solution that’s “very specific to China”.