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China’s Milestone Claim Amid Quest for Quantum Supremacy

China “has closed the technological gap” with the U.S. in quantum technology, which was previously led by the latter. This is “due to a concerted strategy by the Chinese government and inconsistent levels of R&D funding and limited government coordination by the U.S.,” says the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission according to a report. Find out why Chinese quantum computing is the new holy grail and what is the investment like in other countries

Chinese Quantum Computing Model

Quantum computing has proven to be the next holy grail in technological advancements. The race has been characterized by fierce research and investment with groundbreaking announcements from institutions concerning the stages of their research accomplishments. In this regard, China took the world by surprise when it announced its milestone in developing a quantum computer. This was the second time quantum advantage was being achieved. The first time being Google’s announcement in 2019.

The Chinese quantum computing model known as Jiuzhang functions by manipulating 76 photons to carry out its calculations. What makes Jiuzhang novel in its quantum computing advantage is its use of a light-based quantum computer, the first of its kind. Jiuzhang is developed by researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province.

How Does The Chinese Jiuzhang Differ From Google’s 53 Qubit Computer?

Jiuzhang differs from Google’s 53-quantum bit (qubit) computer in that the latter needs to be stored at a temperature close to interstellar space using superconducting materials. This temperature makes operation highly challenging. Jiuzhang quantum computing uses 76 photons to do its calculations and can operate at room temperature, allowing for easy operation. However, its sensory materials must be stored at a temperature of -269.1 °C to enable electrical conduction. Its speed is millions of years faster than a classic computer and experts have praised it as “a state-of-the-art experiment.

Jiuzhang quantum computer functions like a mathematical calculating machine, Gaussian boson sampling (GBS), which is revered for its capacity in performing an extremely difficult calculation in a short time. 

“Boson sampling is a way of computing the output of a linear optical circuit that has multiple inputs and multiple outputs. Single photons enter the circuit in parallel and encounter optical components such as beam splitters. Due to their bosonic nature, if two photons arrive at a beam splitter at the same time, they will both follow the same path,” says a report by Physics World.

Why Quantum Supremacy is the New Holy Grail

Quantum supremacy also known as a quantum advantage is attained when a quantum computer succeeds in solving a problem that would have been otherwise difficult for a classical computer to solve in a reasonable timeframe. The quantum problem solved must not be relevant to every day or a real-life application, but the quantum computer must be able to solve the problem in a very short time.

Quantum computing has become the new holy grail because it promises to be the future breakthrough when applied to solve problems in finance, healthcare, telecommunication, aviation, pharmaceutical, etc. This promise in the real-time application has spurred massive investment from individuals and governments alike.

Countries and Institutions Involved in Quantum Computing Race

China took the lead in quantum technology when in 2016 it became the first to launch a quantum satellite. Since then, China has been working to become the giant in quantum computing and their latest announcement of attaining supremacy with the Jiuzhang quantum computer is proof of that. Other countries including the United States, India, Germany, Russia, and Canada are investing big in quantum technology R&D.

In Germany, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s leading institute for applied research in partnership with IBM advanced their research in quantum technology. The European Union injected  €1 billion into the research which will last for ten years.

The United States budgeted  $1.2 billion for quantum technology in 2018 which will run for five years. In 2018, under President Trump’s administration, the National Quantum Initiative Act was passed and in accordance with the law, the national Council Initiative Advisory Committee was established in 2019.

India and Russia are also betting big on quantum technology. India’s 2020 national budget included INR 8000 Crore ( $1.2 billion) which is intended to fund the research for five years. The research is championed by the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Application.

Again, the University of Copenhagen Niels Bohr Institute in collaboration with the Germany’s University of Bochum became the latest institutes to announce their success in attaining a quantum advantage. In their research result published in Science Advances, a research journal, the universities announced that they have successfully developed a chip that could be used to scale up quantum simulators. The model developed is a nanochip that is one-tenth less thick than a strand of human hair. The tiny size of the chip will allow for sufficient stable light particle production which is encoded with quantum data.

China In the Race, What Does it Mean?

When China gets involved in technological research we have high expectations since the long-existing tech competition with the U.S. will always be triggered. Details of Chinese research and overall investment in quantum technology are not known to the public but the government is building a $10 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science in Hefei, Anhui Province. This is by far higher than the U.S. $1 billion budget for five years.

It is widely believed that the Chinese government supports their indigenous firms through investment and subsidy. It has also pushed for them to obtain patents at the international level.

Besides its capacity to save costs in production, quantum computing offers a huge market base and revenue returns. 

China beats its competitors by offering relatively high standard products at far cheaper prices thereby dominating the greater part of the market base. As with the Huawei 5G telecom equipment, if China successfully begins to produce quantum computers, they will be made much cheaper thereby luring more customers. 

Veronica Ugwu
Veronica Ugwu
Veronica Ugwu is a writer for RegTech Global, with her enthusiasm for tech and business.


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