The Quantum Gap with China


China has ramped up its investment in developing quantum technologies, but few understand the impacts of losing this modern-day space race.

By Thomas E. Ricks | November 28, 2017, 10:00 AM

China has ramped up its investment in developing quantum technologies, but few understand the impacts of losing this modern-day space race.

Seventy-five years ago, the United States and imperial Japanese navies (IJN) faced off at the Battle of Midway, an engagement that would prove decisive in determining the outcome of World War II in the Pacific. The U.S. navy (USN) had devoted tremendous intelligence resources to detecting when and where such a battle might occur. They had long known that the IJN’s primary strategic objective was to lure the USN into a decisive fight. The IJN planned a surprise attack. Why then did the USN take such a risk?
The USN knew it had two critical advantages despite being outgunned and likely years behind in naval readiness than their Japanese counterparts. First, it had broken its adversary’s codes and unlocked access to all of imperial Japan’s communications. They knew precisely when and where an attack would take place. Second, the USN had outclassed its adversary’s fighting platforms with two new and revolutionary technologies, radar and sonar. Therefore, not only did the USN know precisely when and where to place its forces to counter the IJN punch, but it also maintained better situational awareness throughout the fight. Had the United States not recognized the strategic importance these technologies would play throughout the war it may have cost it victory at Midway and many other points along the way.

How does the Battle of Midway relate to the ongoing race to develop quantum technologies? Quantum technologies are those that make use of some of the properties of quantum mechanics. Features such as quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, and quantum tunneling can be applied in new forms of computation, sensing, and cryptography. Many are convinced that whoever masters this esoteric field will gain a similar dominance both in codebreaking and advanced sensors. These advantages will tip scales both in the ongoing cyber war being carried out daily over the global internet and in future state-on-state combat.

Given these risks, China’s recent announcement of a $10 billion, four million square foot national quantum laboratory in Heifi should raise alarms. Having already demonstrated a head-start in a handful of quantum technology applications — such as its launch of the Micius satellite, the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, and China’s claimed engineering of a quantum radar capable of detecting current stealth technologies — China has proven it wants to maintain its advantage. These achievements combined with the massive investment by the Chinese government in quantum research should be a wake-up call to policy-makers and military leaders alike.

China’s increased spending and demonstrated advances in developing quantum technologies will enable advantages both commercially, and militarily, for a handful of reasons. The most concerning advantage relates to codebreaking. Today, communication networks pass digital information over public infrastructures, such as fiber optic pathways and wireless airwaves, using encryption to prevent eavesdroppers from reading the content of the message traffic. The only thing stopping eavesdroppers from decrypting this traffic is the mathematical complexity of doing so. Quantum computers will have the ability to crack these codes in far less time than today’s most advanced conventional computers. Furthermore, as quantum computers make linear gains in computational power, they will exponentially decrease the time it takes to break current means of encryption.

Conversely, just as quantum technologies can be used to decrypt traditional security measures, it also can protect information in sophisticated new quantum communication channels. One of the more pervasive concerns of relying on public infrastructure to communicate sensitive information comes from eavesdroppers. Man-in-the-middle attacks allow eavesdroppers to place sensors along public communication pathways to copy all data passing through these channels and attempt to decrypt it either in real-time or later through brute-force. Today, traditional networks have no reliable means to detect when these types of listening apparatus are emplaced. Quantum technologies, by design, detect changes at the smallest of scales.

The extreme sensitivity of quantum technologies enables them to detect anomalies such as when an eavesdropper attempts to copy or siphon off data. China has already tested a 2,000km long quantum communication pathway from Beijing to Shanghai that employs this powerful new means of detecting man-in-the-middle eavesdroppers. They have already begun to defend their most sensitive networks.

If we return to the lessons learned from the Battle of Midway, the USN realized early on that having better sensors meant providing military leaders better situational awareness in tactical engagements. The rise of quantum technologies that enhance sensing will also dramatically change the landscape of military technologies in coming years. Quantum metrology technologies enable measurements of minute changes such as gravity upon subatomic particles and other characteristic changes that occur at atomic scales. Developments in this arena will have profound effects on a variety of sensors. China claims that it has already created a new form of quantum radar capable of defeating the electromagnetic stealth technologies employed in the $1 trillion F-35 program. This would render much of the strategic investments sunk into this platform tragically outdated and call into question the future viability of this already controversial program. The announced quantum information sciences laboratory in Heifi would also focus on the development of quantum metrology and appears set to build upon China’s early claims regarding quantum radar successes.

Source: Foreign Policy “The Quantum Gap with China”

Note: This is Foreign Policy’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


12 Comments on “The Quantum Gap with China”

  1. Steve says:

    As it stands, practically all US investments into military science from advanced submarines, warships, stealth warplanes, communication satellites, spy planes like India’s P8 surveillance planes plus state of the art US technologies including radar will soon be rendered obsolete and utterly useless.

    There has been no report of using quantum capabilities into hacking US computers, which in terms of political and military espionage is legal. Maybe China’s quantum hacking capabilities are already in undetectable operation and the Scoundrels don’t even now it.

    Russia’s romance with China’s Alliance will intensify, probably will provide free access to Russia’s state of the art military armaments for a slice of China Quantum technology.

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    • https://computer.howstuffworks.com says:

      What evidence can you provide that supports your contention? Do you have any? Don’t forget that China has been notoriously weak in the creation of software, and software is the mother’s milk of computing.

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      • chankaiyee2 says:

        Please provide evidence for your argument that China has been notoriously weak in the creation of software first.

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        • Steve says:

          U are really good at plagiarising, copying and talking like a trained Parrot. Now, go gargle and cleanse your mouth with cow urine.

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        • chankaiyee2 says:

          Sorry, the article is not mine. I have made clear at the end of my post that my reblogging does not mean I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

          You have to argue with the writer of the article instead of me. Therefore, you had better move your comment to http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/28/the-quantum-gap-with-china/ to argue with the writer. I do not delete your comment as some of my readers may be entertained by your absurd comment.

          At least I find you absurd views quite funny. Stupid ideas are enjoyable. That is why people enjoy farces.

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        • Chin Kwaai Lan says:

          You are distorting facts. Sunway TaihuLight uses an open source Linux based operating system, Sunway RaiseOS 2.0.5. Most supercomputers use Linux based OS. There are many indigenous input to write the codes for supercomputing.
          There is an excellent explanation of the Sunway system at

          http://www.netlib.org/utk/people

          from an expert Jack Donggara.
          There are many biased reports to disparage China’s achievements especially from half-baked reporters.
          You are using one of these to support your China bashing. It is downright moronic to pick a report to fit your views.
          Japan tried to develop a totally new OS but failed miserably. It will be stupid of China to do. Using an open source system is no ripoff.
          Didn’t the West and the rest of the world ‘ripoff’ Chinese inventions like rockets, gunpowder, magnetic compass etc? Western science could not advance without the Arabs and Indians ‘ invention of numerals and zero and others.
          Please read Joseph Needham’s “Science and Civilization in China” to enlighten yourself.

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      • Steve says:

        Well Smarty Pants we are all waiting for your evidence that China has been notoriously weak in the creation of software….U must have been in deep sleep.

        …. Hint: China has the best, most outstanding and fastest Supercomputers in the World, known as the Chinese Sunway Taihulight. China has 202 systems in the top 500 supercomputer listings. USA having only 143. India is not in the calculation, conversation and equation. Go checkout China’s Sunway Taihulight number of Petaflops.

        Are you aware that this article refers to China’s gap or great leap in Quantum technologies.?

        Are you also aware that China has launched the world’s first Quantum communication network.? As well as the world’s first Quantum teleportation underseawater.? Meaning – China’s quantum submarine detector could seal the SCS.? Are you also aware that China’s universities are among the best in the world for computer science including software engineering & design, AI, IT, IS, plus plus.?

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        • Steve says:

          Go find another Indian, he may enjoy talking with your farcical laughable nonsense. Goodbye for now, till next time.

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        • Chin Kwaai Lan says:

          This is from a report from the experts which appeared in the Western media.
          these are seldom reported in the Western media. Please refer to
          https://www.hpcwire.com/201
          Extracted from this article:
          “More importantly, where previous Chinese HPC systems were unimpressive except for running benchmarks (i.e., LINPACK tests), TaihuLight is being used for cutting-edge research, with real-world applications running well at scale. This year, three of six finalists for the Gordon Bell competition (see Appendix A) are Chinese efforts; China has never been a finalist before.”

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  2. Btan says:

    These Yankee Morons are extremely confused people.
    Some are claiming that China cannot innovate and can only steal US secrets online and clone the entire product just based on paper print outs.
    Recently there have been many articles claiming that China is way ahead of the US in all manner of technologies from Quantum tech to Artificial Intelligence.
    The Americans have finally realised how smart the Chinese are and they are developing new disruptive technologies that the Americans will never be able to replicate.
    This is bad news for the arrogant Americans and they will eventually realise that they will fall further and further behind the Chinese as China ramps up spending on R & D. China also has many really smart scientists and engineers graduating every year.

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    • alking1957 says:

      Actually we should thank all those fools who keep saying that China only copies and so by extension, is not capable of anything great. Tye more such people the better, let them live n their own fake reality.

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  3. alking1957 says:

    Oh, the sky is falling again on the usa, zzzzzz

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