The manned submersible Fendouzhe completes the second stage of sea trials in November. XINHUA In the past 12 months, the nation's scientists have repeatedly risen to the occasion, especially in the battle against COVID-19. Zhang Zhihao reports. Even as a turbulent 2020 ended, there was no respite for scientists such as Wang Qihui. The researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Microbiology is working to develop a therapeutic antibody treatment for COVID-19. Her research on the novel coronavirus began in January last year. "There are still many unanswered questions," Wang said, after 12 months of intens ive work. The task was so exhausting that she experienced temporary loss of hearing in her left ear, but she rushed back to work shortly after she recovered. "I am just one of many researchers across China pushing their own limits to produce more insights about the virus," she said. "Everyone on our team has a fire in our hearts that pushes us to work harder, so we can produce an effective vaccine and treatment and life can return to normal." Last year was anything but normal. It felt like a series of catastrophes featuring record-breaking wildfires and floods, a global pandemic that had killed more than 1.8 million people by early this month, and unprecedented social and racial unrest globally. For China, though, it was a year full of heroes, courage, hope and breathtaking ingenuity and innovation. The achievements ranged from the Tianwen 1 Mars probe－set to reach the red planet next month－to the Fendouzhe manned submersible diving to a national record of 10,909 meters in the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the oceans. Other notable scientific achievements included the success of the Chang'e 5 lunar mission, which retrieved the first soil samples from the moon for more than 40 years. China's scientists also created Jiuzhang, a light-based quantum computer that solved a problem so complex that it would take the most powerful supercomputer more than 600 million years to complete. Bai Chunli, former president of CAS, said China is witnessing "historic transformations and achievements" in its science and technology sector, characterized by numerous breakthroughs, and is becoming the global front-runner in some cuttingedge fields. "China's scientific and technological capabilities are transitioning from quantitative accumulation to qualitative change, from advances in selected fields to holistic improvement across the overall system," Bai said at a conference in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in November.