Chinese premier Xi Jinping has told the nation to hurry up and do whatever it takes to commercialise quantum technology.
In a speech to a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee last week, Xi called for the nation’s boffins to pursue independent research and make breakthroughs in core technologies.
State-run media, which reported the speech, said the premier wants China to “ensure the safety of industrial and supply chains, and enhance China’s ability of responding to international risks and challenges with science and technology.” Local outlets say Xi also “called for efforts to foster strategic emerging industries such as quantum communications to gain an upper hand in international competition and build new advantages for development.”
The mention of communications is notable given that China has already demonstrated quantum key distribution and done so from a satellite that carries particles entangled with earthbound matter. With quantum encryption widely regarded as utterly impervious to decryption, calling for China to build a “new advantage” through quantum technology has potentially significant implications.
Xi Jinping again urges China to home-grow more ‘core’ tech, faster
China has fewer quantum computing wins to trumpet, but state media have talked up innovations that could lead to a million-qubit system inside a decade. If built with local tech, such a machine could do to US import bans what a working million-qubit machine does to a Xeon – make it look utterly irrelevant!
By way of contrast, IBM in September outlined a quantum roadmap that promised to deliver a 1,121-qubit machine in 2023 and suggested million-qubit boxes as the next step without putting a date on when they might be delivered.
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Can China get ahead in quantum? The nation’s rapid industrialisation shows it can quickly achieve extraordinary feats. Yet China’s ambitions to build more semiconductors have foundered amid odd corporate contortions and some more conventional problems building very complex manufacturing facilities. Quantum tech is more complex still and won’t bend to Xi’s will. ®