Researchers say China’s improvements in quantum computing will help its armed forces, which are the third strongest in the world.
Quantum computing is a kind of computing that allows very powerful machines to solve problems that are too difficult for normal computers.
The idea of quantum computing was discovered by American physicist Richard Feynman in 1980. The International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a 2019 study that it has two important military uses. It can understand secret military messages and can break into secure communications.
Alexandre Vuving is a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. He said he thought China was spending a lot of money on research and development. He also said the government uses private civilian companies to grow its military.
Last month consultant Booz Allen Hamilton said that within 10 years Chinese “threat groups” will gather information allowing quantum computers to find valuable new materials. These could include drugs and chemicals.
China on the move
It is unclear how far Chinese researchers have developed quantum computing. The US Department of Defense’s 2021 report to Congress on China says the Asian superpower continues to seek leadership in important technologies with possible military uses.
The report adds that China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, an economic plan, is pushing quantum technology into many areas.
Heather West is a researcher with market research firm IDC in Massachusetts. She said quantum computing could help find hidden “military vehicles”. It could also allow countries to get more information about the armies of other countries.
Vuving said quantum computing in the world is at a “nascent step.” But many countries are in a race to develop it. He said they include the United States, India, Japan and Germany, in addition to China. He said anyone in head probably wouldn’t last long, as competitors would quickly copy their improvements.
Several countries at risk?
Chen Yi-fan is assistant professor of diplomacy and international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan. Chen said: “Taiwan, the United States or the European Union are all likely targets for China to launch quantum computing attacks as long as countries do not have robust quantum cryptography defend.”
In August 2020, the administration of then-President Donald Trump, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy announced a plan to spend $625 million over five years on quantum research and development.
“We see a lot of research and development going into the Department of Defense in the United States,” West said. She said “I don’t think they would spend money on it if they didn’t think there was this. potential.”
Carl Thayer is a retired professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He said smaller countries cannot compete with China’s quantum computing resources. He added that they would need engineers, technicians and money.
I am Gregory Stachel.
Ralph Jennings reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
words in this story
professor – nm a teacher, especially of the highest rank in a college or university
to consult – v. provide professional advice to a person, organization or business for a fee
nascent – adj. begins to exist: recently formed or developed
robust – adj. successful or impressive and unlikely to fail or wane
cryptography – nm the process of writing or reading messages or secret codes
potential -not. a quality that something has that can be developed to make it better