Study: China Pursuing ‘Quantum Supremacy'

By Mandy Mayfield

Image: iStock

China is poised to leap ahead of the United States in the race to develop quantum technology, according to a new report released Sept. 13.

Rather than crunching 1s and 0s like a traditional computer, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qbits, to process information more rapidly and efficiently.

Beijing — considered a world leader in this technology area — has consistently advanced its capabilities, noted a new study published by the Center for a New American Security, "Quantum Hegemony?: China's Ambitions and the Challenge to U.S. Innovation Leadership."

If the Asian nation, which the Pentagon considers a peer adversary, were to outpace the United States and master the science, it could spell trouble for national security, said report co-authors Elsa Kania, an adjunct fellow with CNAS' technology and national security program, and John Costello, co-founder and director emeritus of the China Cyber and Intelligence Studies Institute.

“China’s advances in quantum science could impact the future military and strategic balance, perhaps even leapfrogging traditional U.S. military-technological advantages,” they said.

China’s national vision for quantum research gives the country an advantage, putting it on track towards possessing “unparalleled computing capabilities” and an essentially “un-hackable” network, the report said.

Chinese research and development in quantum radar, sensing, imaging, metrology and navigation could have direct military applications, it noted.

“Although it’s difficult to predict the trajectories and timeframes for their realization, these dual-use quantum technologies could ‘offset’ key pillars of U.S. military power, potentially undermining critical technological advantages associated with today’s information-centric way of war,” the study said. 

China’s launch of Micius — the world’s first quantum satellite — in 2016 marked a huge milestone for quantum cryptography, which enables more secure communications. The move signaled the country's pursuit of “quantum supremacy," the report said.

The study recommends the U.S. prioritize and invest more in quantum research, while closely monitoring its competitors advancements.

“The United States should work toward a national strategy that ensures that basic and applied research in quantum information science receives adequate funding, while working to attract and retain top talent,” it said.

Topics: Cyber, Technology Tomorrow, Cybersecurity, Infotech

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