Could the “spooky action” of quantum technologies enable China to develop disruptive military capabilities – and perhaps achieve a strategic advantage?
In its quest to offset U.S. techno-strategic advantages, China aspires to emerge as a “science and technology superpower” (科技强国) and leap ahead in quantum science through a new national megaproject. From the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite to setting a new world record with the entanglement of eighteen qubits, which reflects notable progress towards a future quantum computer, China’s advances are impressive. The billions invested in research and development, including through the construction of a new National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science, which could become the world’s largest quantum research facility, highlight that China aspires to lead in the development of these transformative technologies.
However, it is worth noting that hype often overtakes reality. Chinese Party and military leaders may hope that quantum cryptography will one day thwart foreign efforts to access their data and eavesdrop on their communications, but it’s far from clear that such supposedly unhackable systems can be practical and realized at scale. Despite its new record, China is not yet a clear leader in quantum computing. Despite the recent enthusiasm about the symbolic milestone of “quantum supremacy,” the reality is that there are long years ahead of developing and improving useful quantum computers, and it’s too soon to say whether China will succeed in this marathon.
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