China's military ran an 'X-files'-type research programme for 16 years, trying to use psychics for intelligence operations, according to a mainland scientist. Professor He Zuoxiu, senior researcher at China's Theoretical Physics Institute and a fierce opponent of the programme, said: 'It was very big. They threw a lot of money at it.' The programme was launched in 1982 by General Zhang Zhenhuan, who was vice-chairman of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, he said. With Major-General Wu Shaozu, another commission vice-chairman, General Zhang tried to recruit people who were reported to possess paranormal powers. They were taken to a PLA space research centre in Beijing. Among the believers was former party chief Zhao Ziyang, who was allegedly treated by one of the more famous psychics, Zhang Baosheng, labelled China's 'superman'. President Jiang Zemin also witnessed a demonstration while he was mayor of Shanghai, Professor He said. 'China wanted to follow the American CIA, which in 1970 started a programme into the powers of psychics,' he said. With the support of Professor Qian Xuesen, the father of China's atomic bomb, qi experts claimed they could project their 'psycho-kinetic powers' 2,000km and change molecular structures of substances in sealed test tubes. In May 1988, the commission held a conference to put the powers of 'supermen' like Zhang Baosheng to the test. But Mr Zhang failed, the professor said. Professor He said General Wu blocked publication of an article exposing Mr Zhang and others as frauds. Instead, Ling Sheng, the deputy governor of Liaoning province, published a book Superman Zhang Baosheng. Professor He said that in the early 1990s, Mr Zhang carried out many performances. Among those he impressed was Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, who gave him several luxury cars. The Government dropped the research programme after a second scientific trial was held in 1997 under the orders of Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, he said. Mr Zhang again failed the tests.