Two senior military scientists with the People’s Liberation Army were each awarded China’s annual top science and technology prize of eight million yuan (US$1.17 million).

Chinese media were quick to point out that the amount is greater than the prize given to the winner of last year’s Nobel Prize, which was set at nine million Swedish kronor, or roughly US$1 million.

Liu Yongtan, a radar expert, and Qian Qihu, a defense engineering expert, received their certificates from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a ceremony held on Tuesday inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also attended the ceremony and extolled the many research feats by the 100-plus awardees, including five foreign experts.

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Xi presents a foreign scientist with his certificate. Photo: Xinhua

Liu, 82, is behind the PLA’s first all-time, all-weather, over-the-horizon maritime early warning system that can keep tabs on enemies both maritime and airborne. He also spearheaded the development of the nation’s high-frequency, sea-targeting radar systems.

The Global Times noted that Yang’s over-the-horizon early warning radar system formed China’s first line of defense and shaped its air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

Qian, 81, helped establish the theoretical foundation of the PLA’s defense engineering system against nuclear strikes.

Qian was educated in the former Soviet Union. His research on rock mechanics theory and underground nuclear shelter facilities now guarantee the safety of China’s nuclear arsenal as well as its launchers and commander chain against attacks by weapons of its own kind.

Beijing’s pledge not to go back to the possibility of pre-emptive nuclear attacks against an enemy requires the PLA to have the capability to withstand a nuclear attack. This creates a need for storage and other facilities featuring nuclear-weapons-proof walls, so that the PLA can respond with its own strategic weapons.

State broadcaster China Central Television revealed that Qian’s theories and insights were also vital in the design and risk and structural assessments for a slew of mega projects. These included the Nanjing Yangtze River Tunnel, the 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as well as the massive South-North Water Transfer Project.