China's 'King of Explosives' Given Country's Top Science Award After Years of Advancing Its War Capabilities

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Wang Zeshan, 82, was presented the award—the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award—by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Getty Images

A top Chinese scientist nicknamed the "King of Explosives" received his country's most prestigious award for science on Monday for his contributions to China's military.

Wang Zeshan, 82, was presented the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, South China Morning Post reported. Wang was credited with vastly improving China's artillery and enhancing its gunpowder charges.

Over a career spanning roughly six decades, Wang helped improve the launching range of China's artillery by roughly 20 percent, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. Wang, professor with Nanjing University of Science and Technology and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, works 12 hours a day––even as an octogenarian, reports said.

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Chinese soldiers carry the flags of the Communist Party, the state, and the People's Liberation Army during a military parade at the Zhurihe training base in China's northern Inner Mongolia region on July 30, 2017. Getty Images

Song Zhongping, a former artillery instructor for the Chinese military, described Wang as a "pioneering explosives scientist" who used his knowledge to develop "world-beating technologies," according to the South China Morning Post.

"The most important thing for artillery units is to be able to fire as far as possible and as efficiently as possible, and Wang helped to improve both," Song added.

Wang's research reportedly aided in the development of an array of China's artillery weapons, including the WS series multiple-launch artillery rocket system. Such weapons could potentially prove useful if conflict ever came to pass in areas like the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese air force performed "encirclement" drills near Taiwan in recent weeks, prompting discussions of a possible clash.

In recent years, China signified its plans to downsize their military––currently the largest standing army in the world––as it focuses on modernization. A 2017 global ranking of the world's militaries from Global Firepower Index put China in third place in terms of overall military capabilities, but it's rapidly developing new technologies. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, for example, China has the most "active and diverse" development programs for ballistic missiles in the world.