Quantum technology and quantum computers as disruptive technologies of digitalization

Quantum technology and quantum computers as disruptive technologies of digitalization

The German and the most European election campaigns don´t focus on digitalization,what it means and what are the core technologies of digitalization and what are their implications on society, geopolitics, military technology,etc. While there are a few comments of political parties about digitalization, they never catch the main point: The quantum technology and the quantum computers as the great quantum leap and disruptive technology for digitalization–comparable to the invention of the atomic bomb. Moore´s law says that the storage and processing capacity of microchips and their computers doubles all five years, but quantum technology and quantum computers will multiplicate this by hundred thousand or even millions times as the microchip structure will be based on photons and submolecular, even atomic structures. While Germany focuses on refugees, the NATO´s 2% benchmark, social justice and the EU invests most of its budget for agriculture and related subsidies, there is no politician who demands that there should be a EU-Funds for quantum technology and the development of an EU-quantum super computer. The EU has some investment for this, but a laughable amount of money for the next decade and for 28 countries. The EU plans to invest 1 billion Euros in research for the next 10 years, starting in 2018. That´s next to nothing! There is no EU- Funds for the development of an quantum super computer as ITER, a nuclear fusion project which gets 22 billion Euro each year by 22 states. Since decades the EU and other countries are funding ITER, because it could be the solution for all energy problems, but in the case of quantum computers there is nothing comparable in sight. At the moment the USA, Japan and China are the countries which invest most in this new disruptive technology, while Germany and the EU is focusing on old industries like carmakers and engineering and is talking about combustion engines and electromobility at maximum.Therefore we want to present 5 articles about digitalization and quantum technology. My two articles on the staterun website of  Chinese state television CCTV and three articles of the Jamestown Foundation about Chinese quantum technology research and its implications, especially its military apllications.While Germany tries to introduce a Cybercommand within its military, gets the idea of protecting its critical infrastructures or how it could lead a computerwar, it doesn´t promote the hardware and technology which are essential for its military independence. Leo tanks, but not even a air craft carrier or nuclear weapons, then forget about quantum computer military technology!  Nor the EU. Therefore it is possible that Germany and the EU is becoming an industry museum of carmaking and old industries with soft power promoted by some cultural event agencies which organize Meddelivian festivals and Loveparades and not a new industry power that adopts the necessities of digitalization.

China-Germany enter Digitalization 4.0 era

Editor: 李琨 丨CCTV.com

04-08-2016 17:07 BJT

By Ralf Ostner, English and Chinese translator based in Munich, Germany

There hasn’t been much talk on the coming digitalization of the economy, society, known as the 4th industrial revolution. Beijing´s new Five-Year Plan hopes to transform China’s export-orientated, low tech economy into a high-tech industry driven by the domestic market.

The Chinese government recognizes that digitalization and industry 4.0 are a technological revolution, which would increase productivity and output, allowing China to catch up with developments of these new industries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had visited the Silicon Valley, Ca., USA and Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai and Alibaba founder Jack Ma both took a trip to the leading electronics and IT-fair worldwide, CEBIT in Hannover, Germany (CEBIT touted digitalization and industry 4.0), as well as signing a technology cooperation agreement between China and Germany that are clear signals Beijing seeks to gain access to new technologies.

While Silicon Valley and Bangalore, India remain the leading centers of software production and IT technology, Europe has succumbed to a slowdown in IT development.

There is no Silicon Valley in Europe. The lack of innovation, venture capital and cooperation between universities and start ups, the missing military industrial complex in Europe are the main reasons why the continent’s IT economy is still underdeveloped.

While Europeans are good at building cars, ships and aircraft, engineering, chemical and electronics industry; strong IT technology is missing.

Europe had slept through the microelectronic revolution since the 1980s and didn´t create its Microsoft, Apple, Ebay, Google, Facebook, Amazon or giant IT companies as China did with Alibaba, Baidu, Tecent (QQ & WeChat),etc.

Google is thinking about building its own cars and German carmakers could face new competitors in traditional markets. There are many mid-sized IT companies in Germany, so called champions with German SAP as the biggest, but nothing comparable to huge American IT companies.

Many German companies are specialized in industry 4.0 and in its applications in the manufacturing sector; and China hopes to obtain German industry 4.0 knowledge.

Berlin wants to change the situation. German Minister for Economic Affairs Gabriel has published a „Digitalization strategy 2025“ with the following goals: Germany wants to build a gigabyte glasfibrenet by 2025. Startups can receive tax breaks, face fewer regulations, enjoy state subsidies, and incentives to set up start ups.

There should be a united European digital market with similar standards and European cooperation. A digitalization agency will be set up, which integrates different responsibilities of other ministries and would be under the command of the Ministry for Economic Affairs.

The school system will implement courses for basic knowledge in digitalization, computer programming so every pupil can learn algorithms before finishing school.

In Europe, Germany and Great Britain are the leading countries for startups at the moment and they want to create an innovative start-up culture, comparable to the USA.

What digitalization will mean for a future society is described by Google-CEO Eric Smith´s book, „The New Digital Age“, digitalization will influence the whole economy, transform the daily lives of billions of people, cause a new industrial revolution, and alter relations between nation states and its citizens.

Yet, Smith´s book only highlights some aspects of our future without defining its whole development. Chinese discussions about internet sovereignty would play a crucial role in state-to-state relations.

A big issue for all countries transitioning to industry 4.0 and digitalization will be how they manage massive unemployment. Although startup companies create many new jobs, other jobs will be lost in the manufacturing industry.

Some commentators in the USA and Europe have introduced the model of an unconditional basic income to resolve the problem.

Nevertheless, most countries do not have concepts on how to deal with the labor market impact of the digitalization and industry 4.0. Accordingly, Western and Asian states should learn from each other to solve problems together.

EU and China prepare for 2nd quantum revolution

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

05-25-2016 11:51 BJT

By Ralf Ostner, Chinese-English-German translator, based in Munich, Germany

The European Union, United States, China, Japan are preparing for the so-called 2nd quantum revolution. The EU plans to invest 1 billion Euros in research for the next 10 years, starting in 2018.

A broad community of industries, research institutes and scientists aim for Europe to stand at the forefront of bringing transformative advances to science, industry and society, by creating new commercial opportunities to address global challenges that provide strategic capabilities for security and seeds as yet un-imagined capabilities for the future.

Europe’s capabilities could lead to long-term economic, scientific and societal benefits for a more sustainable, productive, entrepreneurial and secure EU.

Quantum physics was created in Europe in the first decades of the 20th century by young physicists – Bohr, Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Pauli, Dirac, Curie, and De Broglie.

Europe still plays a leading role with in regards to a broader research scope, linking fundamental and applied sciences and engineering.

The top institutions can be found Europe-wide, covering basic physics to electronics and computer science. €0.5 billion had been invested over the last 20 years.

The EU Future and Emerging Technology (FET) program has fostered a European scientific community with world-class scientific and technical expertise.

Short-term goals (1-5 years):

Develop core technology of quantum signal repeaters that work with cryptography capability and eavesdropping detection, enabling long-distance point-to-point quantum-secure links.

Discover new algorithms, protocols and fields of application for quantum simulators, computers and communication networks, to analyze and design useful chemical processes.

Medium-term goals (5-10 years):

Realize versatile simulators of material magnetism and of such electronic properties as superconductivity, supporting the development and design of new materials with exotic properties.

Simplify quantum sensors so they can be produced at lower costs for larger-volume applications, such as manufacturing, automotive, construction and geo-surveying.

Long-term goals (>10 years):

Create a secure and fast quantum internet connecting major cities in Europe using quantum repeaters running quantum communication protocols.

Build a universal quantum computer to demonstrate the resolution of a problem that, with current techniques on a supercomputer, would take longer than the age of the universe.

Integrate quantum sensors with consumer applications, such as integrated photonic or solid-state devices for mobile devices.

More EU companies have shown a stronger interest in quantum research, including companies: Airbus Defence and Space, Alcatel Lucent, ASML, Bosch, IBM, Nokia, IMEC, Safran, Siemens and Thales.

High-tech SMEs, like e2v, Gooch & Housego, ID Quantique, M Squared Lasers, Muquans, Single Quantum and Toptica, occupy leading positions in their specific markets.

Europe holds a key position in global value chains for the semiconductor, electronics and optical industries. Quantum technologies can make an economic impact with companies looking to deliver devices engineered for use and manufactured within a commercial environment.

They will drive higher-volume productions, reduce costs and stimulate growth of new applications and markets.

Governments are raising their strategic and economic ambitions, while many non-European industries have already invested significant amounts, both inside and outside Europe.

Beijing has placed significant efforts and investments into quantum technology research, along with presenting breathtaking technological projects. The QUESS quantum satellite will be developed in cooperation with European countries.

China is becoming a world leader in such technology; a satellite that delivers quantum communications to act as a cornerstone for translating cutting-edge research into a strategic asset for the nation.

It will be launched in July 2016. Chief scientist Pan Jianwei said QUESS will complete China’s growing quantum communications network, which includes a 2,000-kilometer-long network between Beijing and Shanghai.

QUESS’s function is to test the phenomena of quantum entanglement. Operated by the China Academy of Sciences, the 500kg satellite contains a quantum key communicator, quantum entanglement emitter, entanglement source, processing unit, and a laser communicator.

QUESS will relay transmissions between two ground stations (one in China, and the other in Europe) transmitting quantum keys. Pan said the distances involved (QUESS orbits at an altitude of 1,000km) would be ideal for testing quantum teleportation of photons.

The Austrian Academy of Sciences will provide optical receivers for European ground stations. Yet the strangest detail of the announcement had to do with the satellite the group had selected in the first place.

They claimed to have used CHAMP, a German satellite that was de-orbited in 2010. A breakthrough in quantum technology has earned China’s top science accolade as Chinese President Xi Jinping handed the State Natural Science Award (first class) to Pan Jianwei’s team in Beijing.

Pan’s team at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, set a world record in terms of quantum teleportation, or sending quantum information – for example, the exact state of an atom – from one place to another.

The revolutionary technology is expected to pave the way for developing unbreakable quantum communication networks, as well as building a quantum computer billions of times faster than current supercomputers.

International cooperation is growing. Among important conferences would be the EMN Meeting on Quantum Technology, which had been attended by international scientists and researchers on April 14-17, 2015 in Beijing.

The EMN Meetings include five annual gatherings: EMN Fall (Orlando), EMN Spring (Las Vegas), EMN Summer (Cancun), EMN East (Beijing), and EMN Open (Chengdu); mainly held in China and USA.

With the new EU flagship initiative in quantum technology, other countries may likely start similar initiatives to expand into international competitions and cooperation in the quantum technology research field. The cooperation between China and EU would gain new momentum as well.

„Quantum Leap (Part 1): China’s Advances in Quantum Information Science

Publication: China Brief Volume: 16 Issue: 18

By: Elsa Kania, John Costello

December 5, 2016

This is the first in a series of two articles that examines and evaluates the ramifications of Chinese advances in quantum information science. While this initial article reviews China’s framework for and progress in this scientific domain, the subsequent article will evaluate the military and strategic implications of quantum technologies. 

In August 2016, the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite, Micius (墨子), drew international attention China’s rapid advances in quantum information science. These breakthroughs demonstrate the success of a long-term national research agenda that prioritized innovation in this critical technological domain. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, this high-level focus on quantum information science has intensified and been explicitly linked to both national security and economic competition. While it is difficult to evaluate the feasibility or timeframe within which China’s quantum ambitions may be realized, Chinese scientists’ consistent progress in quantum information science seems likely to continue. Looking forward, China could potentially leapfrog the U.S. in this critical technological domain to become the world’s first quantum power.

High-Level Prioritization of Quantum Science

In recent years, China has placed quantum information science at the center of its national security strategy. This research agenda took on increased importance after the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden’s revelations detailing the extent of U.S. intelligence capabilities intensified the Chinese leadership’s anxieties regarding China’s domestic information security and its susceptibility to advanced forms of espionage. In particular, the Snowden leaks were a wake-up call regarding the disparity between China’s offensive cyber capabilities and those of the United States. The result has been an intensified focus on quantum technologies with the potential to bridge these offensive and defensive gaps. In fact, the Snowden leaks were so central to Chinese motivations that Snowden has been characterized as one of the two greatest individuals contributing most to China’s subsequent advances in this technological domain (Xinhua, August 16). The second, Pan Jianwei (潘建伟), is typically lauded as generally regarded as the father of Chinese quantum information science. While quantum communications networks are much more secure against cyber espionage, future quantum computing has the potential to leapfrog U.S. cyber capabilities.

Consequently, quantum technology has attracted the attention of the Chinese leadership at the highest levels, and Xi himself has emphasized the strategic importance of quantum technologies to national security and particularly cyber security. In September 2013, Xi Jinping and other Politburo members visited Anhui Quantum Communication Technology Co. Ltd. for a collective learning session, meeting with Pan Jianwei and the company’s general manager, before viewing a demonstration of quantum communication technology (Quantum CTek, September 30, 2013). In November 2015, at the 18th Party Congress’ 5th Plenum, Xi Jinping included quantum communications in his list of science and technology projects that are prioritized for major breakthroughs by 2030, due to their importance to China’s long-term strategic requirements (Xinhua, November 3, 2015). In April, Xi visited the University of Science and Technology of China, where he met with Pan Jianwei and praised his progress (Xinhua, April 27). During the 36th Politburo study session on cyber security, Xi also emphasized the importance of advancing indigenous innovation in quantum communications and other critical cyber information technologies (Xinhua, October 9).

Property Explanation Advantage
Superposition Particles exist across all of the possible states simultaneously. The applications of superposition include the capability to generate “qubits,” quantum analogs of the bit that exist in a superposition of multiple states, which enable quantum computing capabilities that are vastly more powerful than classical computing.
Entanglement When multiple particles are generated such that their quantum states are linked even when separated at great differences, enabling what Einstein characterized as of “spooky action at a distance” Through entanglement, information can be exchanged between quantum systems, a process that enables technologies such as quantum key distribution, a cryptographic technique that involves the secure exchange of secret keys, as well as various forms of quantum sensing.

Through national research and development plans for science and technology, China has translated the high-level focus on quantum information science into action. The consistent funding of basic and applied research in this scientific domain, which dates back to the 1990s, has primarily occurred through programs including China’s National High-Technology Research and Development Plan (国家高技术研究发展计划) or “863 Plan” and the former National Key Basic Research and Development Plan (国家重点基础研究发展计划) or “973 Plan” (“863 Plan”; High Technology Correspondence, July 1996). In 2001, Guo Guangcan (郭光灿) founded the Key Laboratory of Quantum Information at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). At that point, his team received initial support through the 973 plan (CAS Key Laboratory of Quantum Information). Also in 2001, Pan Jianwei, at the age of 31, returned to China after receiving a PhD from Vienna University, where he had collaborated with leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger. At USTC, Pan was involved in the formation of the Quantum Information Laboratory (量子信息实验室) (Xinhua, August 16; USTC). The initial support and funding for their research enabled notable experimental advances throughout the early 2000s that further accelerated interest in and funding for their ambitious research agenda. In 2003, Pan’s team formulated the vision of an integrated world quantum communications network and the future creation of “experimental quantum science satellites” (Xinhua, August 16). Over a decade later, Guo and Pan remain dominant in the field, and their ambitious goals may be within reach.This high-level commitment has been reflected by the inclusion and promotion of quantum information science through China’s five-year plans. The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) incorporated basic research on quantum communication as a key research direction, while launching a major research program on quantum control (MoST, October 25, 2006; Science and Technology Daily, November 16, 2006). In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the “Quantum Control Research National Major Scientific Research Plan” (量子调控研究国家重大科学研究计划) was introduced as a special topic (MoST, July 17, 2012). The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), formulated in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, intensifies the prioritization of quantum information science, including “quantum control” in the category of “basic research related to national strategic requirements” (Xinhua, March 18). This is further reflected in the 13th Five-Year Plan’s National Science and Technology Innovation Plan (国家科技创新规划), which emphasized quantum control, quantum information, quantum communication, quantum computing, and quantum navigation (State Council, August 8).

In the years since the Snowden leaks, the high-level focus on and investments in quantum information science have only intensified. This year’s large-scale reorganization of China’s national-level research and development planning, including the consolidation of the 863 and 973 plans, has reinforced the focus on quantum information science and multiple quantum technologies. The new National Key R&D Plan (国家重点研发计划) included basic research on quantum control and quantum information among its prioritized projects (MoST, February 16). The available guidance for the project in 2016 and 2017 highlighted research tasks including quantum communications, quantum computing and simulations, related electronic systems, small quantum systems, and quantum precision measurement (MoST, February 5; MoST, August 1). This research agenda has become a national priority due not only to strategic and security concerns, but also the research successes achieved under the leadership of Guo Guangcan and Pan Jianwei.

China’s Quantum Breakthroughs

Within the past fifteen years, Chinese research in quantum information science has achieved unique and unexpected successes. In particular, China has progressed significantly in quantum cryptography, which enables quantum communications, and achieved concurrent advances in quantum computing. Quantum cryptography creates unbreakable, almost unhackable, protection for computer networks, based on the secure sharing of cryptographic keys for one-time pad (OTP) cryptography through the exchange of information via quantum entanglement. On the other hand, quantum computing, which uses “qubits” (i.e., a quantum analogue of the “bit,” which simultaneously exists in a superposition of the states of 0 and 1), will convey an extreme advantage in computing power, solving complex algorithms dramatically more quickly than classical computers. Based on “Shor’s algorithm,” a mathematical process to derive cryptographic keys, quantum computers would be able to defeat standard encryption methods (Youtube, [accessed November 22]).

Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Communications

China’s progress in quantum communications networks is best demonstrated by the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite, Micius (墨子), this past August (Xinhua, August 16; China Military Online, August 16). Micius established a quantum key distribution network with the transmission of quantum information between the satellite and multiple ground stations (Xinhua, August 16). This recent launch is a component of the project Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), initiated in 2011, that has involved collaboration between a team led by Pan Jianwei from USTC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. China plans to take this further. The Tiangong-2 space station, launched in September, will also engage in quantum key distribution experiments (People’s Daily, September 18).

The Micius satellite represents the culmination of nearly two decades of steady progress on free space quantum teleportation, which uses the transmission of quantum states through the air to exchange quantum cryptographic keys. Notably, in 2005, Pan Jianwei’s team first confirmed the feasibility of a quantum satellite in the world’s first “free space quantum communication experiment,” (Physical Review, April 22, 2005). Since then, Chinese scientists have progressively increased the distance at which free space quantum communications can be operationalized, breaking several world records in the process. In 2010, a team of researchers achieved quantum teleportation across 16 kilometers of free space (China Brief, August 19, 2010; Nature Photonics, May 16, 2010). Then, in 2012, Pan Jianwei and his colleagues demonstrated successful quantum teleportation and entanglement across 100-kilometer free space channels (Nature, August 8, 2012). These experimental achievements have since extended beyond the laboratory, with the launch of Micius.

Additionally, ground-based fiber-optic quantum communication networks, which are more secure and reliable, have reached a much more advanced stage than their free space counterparts. Chinese government authorities have begun a massive effort toward operationalizing these technologies to secure their most sensitive networks. In 2009, USTC’s CAS Key Laboratory of Quantum Information (量子信息重点实验室) established the world’s first “quantum government network” (量子政务网) in Wuhu, Anhui (Guangming Daily, May 20, 2009). Most notably, in 2012, for the 18th Party Congress, Pan led a team of researchers to create quantum communications networks that securely connected the venue hosting the meeting, the delegates’ hotel rooms, and the central leadership compound Zhongnanhai (Caixin, February 6, 2015). At a larger scale, China has been building and will soon complete the world’s largest ground quantum optical fiber communications system. The “Quantum Beijing-Shanghai Trunk” (量子京沪干线) will stretch approximately 1,240 miles between Shanghai and Beijing (Xinhua, March 3; Xinhua, August 16). According to Pan Jianwei, this quantum communications network will be used for the secure transmission of information in government, finance, and other sensitive domains (Xinhua, March 3).

Quantum Computing

While Chinese advances in quantum cryptography have achieved multiple world records and seemingly outpaced parallel global efforts, Chinese quantum computing efforts remain relatively nascent. Nonetheless, known experimental advances in quantum computing indicate that China has increasingly kept pace with international advances in quantum computing and also accomplished notable breakthroughs (CAS, 2010). As Guo Guangcan has emphasized, “Chinese scientists have been going all out to win the worldwide race to develop a quantum computer” (China Daily, August 20, 2016). In August, USTC scientists reported their successful development of a semiconductor quantum chip, which could enable quantum operations and information processing (CAS, August 12). Later that month, other researchers from USTC announced a breakthrough in the preparation and measurement of six hundred pairs of entangled quantum particles (CAS, August 26). In October, USTC researchers revealed significant progress in quantum control that could enable future advances in quantum computing based on more precise quantum logic gates (Xinhua, October 26). As Pan Jianwei has noted, looking forward, the eventual development of a quantum computer with 50 qubits could achieve “quantum supremacy” (量子称霸) overcoming the conventional encryption capabilities of any computer in the world (People’s Daily, November 6). However, Pan anticipates that the creation of a “truly programmable, universal” quantum computer might ultimately require between 30 and 50 years.

Relative to quantum communication, China’s quantum computing efforts have a much greater degree of private sector involvement and investment. This phenomenon is mirrored in Western nations where, at least according to public sources, advances in quantum computing are being primarily led through private sector research efforts. In China, the most visible and mature effort has occurred at the Alibaba Quantum Computing Lab, a collaboration between Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, Aliyun, and CAS that was established in 2015. According to Pan Jianwei, who also serves as its chief scientist, the team will “undertake frontier research on systems that appear the most promising in realizing the practical applications of quantum computing.” Their pursuit of quantum computing will take advantage of “the combination of the technical advantages of Aliyun in classical calculation algorithms, structures and cloud computing with those of CAS in quantum computing, quantum analogue computing and quantum artificial intelligence, so as to break the bottlenecks of Moore’s Law and classical computing” (Alibaba, July 3, 2015).

Pan’s explanation reflects the underlying rationale for the high level of investment and private sector involvement in quantum computing relative to quantum communications. While quantum encryption is useful, its commercial applications are limited, since newer, more advanced forms of cryptography can offer comparable security. Thus, quantum encryption probably will be primarily employed in particularly sensitive areas in which extra security is justified and cost isn’t necessarily a factor, particularly government, military, and financial networks. On the other hand, quantum computing has a wide range of commercial applications. Once operationalized, quantum computing capabilities can be applied to any area in which raw computing power and analytics are required, conveying a unique advantage that classical computing cannot match. As the world becomes ever-more data-rich, the relevance and value of quantum computing will only increase. If Chinese scientists succeeded in creating the world’s first quantum computer companies, its commercialization would also confer staggering economic dividends, enabling nearly intractable market dominance.

China’s Future Quantum Trajectory

Looking forward, China has articulated an ambitious quantum agenda, which may prove feasible in light of Chinese scientists’ consistent successes, as well as the high-level plans and funding. Xi Jinping himself has announced the intention for China to achieve major breakthroughs in quantum communications by 2030 (Xinhua, November 3, 2015). Within the next several years, the “Beijing-Shanghai Trunk” is on track to be expanded nationwide and linked with multiple metropolitan-level quantum communications networks (CCTV, August 17). A 712-kilometer portion of the line linking Hefei and Shanghai, opened in late November, and the line in its entirety is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 (Xinhua, November 20). China also intends to create a quantum communications network between Asia and Europe by 2020 and ultimately a global network by 2030 (Xinhua, November 2, 2014; PLA Daily, August 16). These future quantum communications networks could involve both terrestrial wide area networks and multiple quantum satellites linked with ground stations (Xinhua, August 16). In quantum computing, the Alibaba Quantum Computing Lab has articulated equally ambitious goals. Their team seeks to achieve the coherent manipulation of 30 qubits by 2020, to develop quantum simulation with calculation speeds that match those of today’s fastest supercomputers by 2025, and to succeed in the “comprehensive realization of common-use quantum computing functions” through a quantum computer prototype with 50 to 100 qubits by 2030 (Xinhua, July 31, 2015; People’s Daily, August 3, 2015; CAS, September 2, 2015; Xinhua, July 31, 2015). Pan Jianwei has anticipated that quantum technologies will come into use by the government agencies within the five years, reach millions of households within ten years, and become almost ubiquitous within fifteen (Xinhua, August 16).


Today, China is hurtling headlong toward the quantum era, placing its bets on the disruptive, even revolutionary potential of quantum technologies. These recent breakthroughs have been preceded and enabled by long-term efforts and investments in quantum information science, all enthusiastically backed at the highest levels of the Chinese leadership. As a result, China has made major progress toward the operationalization and commercialization of unhackable quantum communications, while seeking supremacy in quantum computing. Pan Jianwei has predicted the advent of a “revolution in quantum physics” and hopes to see the birth of a “quantum Internet” in his lifetime, even within the next fifteen years (SCMP, January 8; People’s Daily, November 6).

If successful in leapfrogging the U.S. through these advances in quantum technology, China would achieve a decisive advantage in future peacetime and wartime competition alike. Although such exuberance about the future of quantum technology could prove premature, the strategic implications of these disruptive technological trends must be taken into account. China’s focus on the military applications of quantum information science and the resulting strategic implications will be examined in part 2 of this series.

Elsa Kania is a recent graduate of Harvard College and currently works as an analyst at the Long Term Strategy Group. John Costello is a Senior Analyst for Cyber and East Asia at Flashpoint. He is a Cybersecurity Fellow for New America and former Congressional Innovation Fellow for majority staff in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. John is also a US Navy veteran, former NSA Analyst, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.


Quantum Leap (Part 2): The Strategic Implications of Quantum Technologies

Publication: China Brief Volume: 16 Issue: 19

By: Elsa Kania, John Costello

December 21, 2016 01:11 PM Age: 8 months

This is the second in a series of two articles that examines and evaluates the ramifications of Chinese advances in quantum information science. While part 1 reviewed China’s national framework for and progress in this scientific domain, this second article evaluates the military applications and strategic implications of quantum technologies. 

China’s high-level focus on quantum information science reflects its recognition of the revolutionary implications of quantum technologies. China has operationalized and employed “unhackable” quantum cryptography to secure sensitive communications, while pursuing quantum computing capabilities whose enormous computing power could overcome most existing forms of encryption. Concurrently, Chinese scientists are starting to explore other quantum technologies, including supposedly “stealth-defeating” quantum radar. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recognizes the strategic significance and operational potential of quantum technologies in their attempts to achieve a decisive advantage. Notably, these disruptive technologies—quantum communications, quantum computing, and potentially quantum radar—may have the potential to undermine cornerstones of U.S. technological dominance in information-age warfare, its sophisticated intelligence apparatus, satellites and secure communications networks, and stealth technologies.

The Military Applications of Quantum Technologies

Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Communications

The employment of quantum cryptography enables unbreakable, almost unhackable quantum communications networks that may have particular utility in a military context. Currently, China is in the process of constructing these networks at a national and even global scale for government and military purposes (see part 1). The PLA may already employ quantum communications networks in a limited capacity for the transmission of particularly sensitive information. By contrast, the U.S. military has not yet chosen to invest extensively in building a quantum communications infrastructure. For instance, the Air Force has concluded that the technique of quantum key distribution “significantly increases system complexity but is unlikely to provide an overall improvement in communication security” (USAF Scientific Advisory Board). For the PLA, however, existing communications systems are presumably relatively insecure, such that the value-added of state-of-the-art quantum communications may be higher. The construction of a national quantum communications backbone network (国家量子通信骨干网) has been characterized as a form of military-civil fusion (MCF, 军民融合), consistent with a national strategy for MCF and a tradition of building infrastructure optimized for such dual uses (Xinhua, November 21).

Looking forward, the PLA will likely use increasingly sophisticated quantum communications networks not only to ensure the integrity of sensitive communications during peacetime but also to seek an asymmetric information advantage in a conflict scenario. As China’s concern about the security of military and civilian information systems has intensified, the employment of quantum cryptography has come to be seen as a critical “shield” for information security (信息安全之“盾”) (USTC, August 16). In one early application of this technology, in 2009, a team of scientists under the leadership of Pan Jianwei constructed a quantum network to secure communication between government officials coordinating the military parade that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (Caixin, February 6, 2015). Although it is difficult to verify the current status of the PLA’s quantum communications capabilities, Pan Jianwei claimed in an interview last year, “China is completely capable of making full use of quantum communications in a local war. The direction of development in the future calls for using relay satellites to realize quantum communications and control that covers the entire army” (Caixin, February 6, 2015). This is why China’s quantum satellite, Micius (墨子), is so important, since it enables the testing of this methodology, while also advancing progress toward a future “quantum Internet.” By 2030, China intends to possess a network of quantum satellites, which could potentially also be employed not only to enable secure military communications but also to enhance the PLA’s command and control capabilities, including perhaps the secure transmission of the targeting data necessary to enable long-range precision strike (e.g., PLA Daily, September 27).

PLA academics have highlighted the multiple applications and potential advantages of quantum communications in a military context. According to National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光), quantum communication could contribute to ensuring information security, enhancing information confrontation capabilities, and enabling superluminal (i.e., faster than the speed of light) communication (PLA Daily, March 24). As a result, multiple nations are “racing to control the strategic commanding heights of quantum communication.” Influential PLA information warfare theorist Ye Zheng (叶征) has also characterized quantum cryptography as one of the emerging technologies that have “infused information operations with new vitality, promoting the development of information operations.” [1] According to An Weiping (安卫平), deputy chief of staff of the PLA’s new Northern Theater Command, quantum communication is anticipated to have a dramatic impact on the future evolution of the form of warfare and the international military balance, including because it is anticipated to enhance battlefield information processing facilities, enabling the construction of a more robust combat system (PLA Daily, September 27).

Although the value of quantum cryptography is debatable, recent Chinese advances in quantum key distribution do constitute significant steps toward the development of even more secure quantum communications networks optimized for wartime use. [2] In November, a paper co-authored by Pan Jianwei described recent advances in measurement-device-independent quantum key distribution, which overcomes potential security vulnerabilities, including through detecting attempted eavesdropping (Phys. Rev. Lett., November 2). Notably, their research broke records through secure transmission over 404 kilometers of optical fiber, while concurrently demonstrating a 500-fold increase in speed, sufficient to enable encrypted voice transmission via telephone (Physics, November 2). While this demonstration is only experimental at this point, continued advances in quantum communications could further increase its utility for the PLA.

Quantum Computing

The eventual achievement of quantum computing will result in computational capabilities that are vastly more powerful than classical computers. Future quantum computers could be integrated into complex weapons systems that require immense processing power. Through quantum computing, it will become possible to overcome most standard forms of encryption, rendering all networks reliant upon it, including computers and satellites, extremely vulnerable. In future warfare, quantum computing may prove to have strategic significance on par with nuclear weapons (e.g., PLA Daily, January 8, 2014).

For the PLA, the pursuit of quantum computing may possesses particular strategic significance since this capability could undermine the security of the extensive network of communications and surveillance satellites upon which the U.S. military remains heavily dependent. The PLA considers the U.S. to be a “no satellites, no fight” military and has focused on multiple kinetic and non-kinetic methods of targeting U.S. space assets. [3] PLA doctrinal writings have also emphasized the targeting of isolated battlefield networks, such as those of a carrier battle group. [4]

Within our lifetimes, quantum computing will enable such attacks on the availability and integrity of the satellites and communications systems upon which modern warfare relies, in ways currently inconceivable. The ability to decrypt sensitive intelligence and communications, whether conveyed via satellite networks or fiber, would provide an extreme intelligence advantage in peacetime and wartime contingencies alike. In the foreseeable future, a major, very real threat facing the U.S. is the possibility that a strategic competitor, such as China, could develop quantum computing in secret and use it against sensitive communications in order to outmaneuver or strategically outflank the U.S. In a wartime scenario, this potential infiltration of isolated networks could enable efforts to preempt operational movements or sabotage U.S. systems, without the U.S. knowing the source of this vulnerability. Although the full extent of U.S. government and military advances in quantum computing is likely not reflected by the limited information available in the public domain, the U.S. has yet to articulate a national agenda for quantum science that matches the scope or scale of that of China. Recently, a White House official articulated concerns that the U.S. lead in quantum computing is increasingly “under siege” (Defense One, December 7).

Quantum Sensing

 In the perhaps more distant future, various forms of quantum sensing, including quantum radar, may take advantage of quantum entanglement to enable highly sophisticated detection of targets, regardless of stealth. [5] Notably, in September, a team of Chinese scientists from China Electronics Technology Group Corporation’s (CETC) 14th Research Institute’s (中国电子科技集团第14研究所) Intelligent Sensing Technology Key Laboratory (智能感知技术重点实验室) publicized their progress toward creating a single-photon quantum radar that is reportedly capable of detecting targets up to 100 kilometers away with improved accuracy (PLA Daily, September 13; CETC, September 18). Their research was undertaken in collaboration with a team led by Pan Jianwei from the University of Science and Technology of China, CETC’s 27th Research Institute, and Nanjing University (CETC 14th Research Institute, September 7). The reported range of this quantum radar, which takes advantage of entanglement between photon pairs, is supposedly five times that of a laboratory prototype jointly created last year by an international team of researchers (Phys.org, February 26, 2015).

The future realization of quantum radar that could potentially overcome superior U.S. stealth capabilities would enable the PLA to undermine this critical pillar of U.S. military power. At the time, commentary in PLA media highlighted quantum radar as the “nemesis” of today’s stealth fighter planes, highlighting that it has “remarkable potential” to disrupt future warfare (PLA Daily, September 22). However, it is difficult to evaluate the actuality of China’s advances in quantum radar technology. Information in official media reports of technological breakthroughs could potentially be exaggerated. On the other hand, the possibility that certain aspects of Chinese research on the military applications of quantum technologies may have advanced further than is discernable based on the available open-source information and publications also cannot be discounted.

 The Chinese Defense Industry’s Development of Quantum Technologies

Beyond the academic laboratories and research institutes focused on quantum information science (e.g., see part 1), several Chinese state-owned defense firms also appear to have started to engage in research and development regarding the military applications of quantum technology. These include: the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (中国电子科技集团, CETC), one of China’s top state-owned defense conglomerates, which has close ties to the PLA and China’s space program, as well as the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (中国航天科工集团公司, CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (中国航天科技集团公司, CASC), state-owned defense firms that act as primary contractors for China’s space program and also develop related military technologies (China Brief, February 21, 2012). The following is an initial listing of the research institutes associated with these defense firms that are reportedly engaged in research in quantum technologies.

The Future of Warfare in the Quantum Age?

Looking forward, China aspires to lead the coming second quantum revolution and may possess the potential to leapfrog the U.S. in this critical technological domain (PLA Daily, August 18). According to An Weiping, as the information age is undergoing a “leap” toward the “quantum information age,” quantum is considered the “forward position” for a great power’s comprehensive national power, scientific level, and strategic contests of military power (PLA Daily, September 27). China’s concentrated pursuit of quantum technologies could have much more far-reaching impacts than the asymmetric approach to defense that has characterized China’s strategic posture thus far, with its focus on “assassin’s mace” (杀手锏) programs since the 1990s.

These quantum ambitions seemingly constitute an evolution of the PLA’s traditional asymmetric strategy to one that attempts to offset U.S. technological superiority. The employment of quantum communications, computing, and perhaps even radar may radically alter the rules of the game on the future battlefield. These technologies could neutralize the technological advantages associated with today’s information-centric ways of war, epitomized by the U.S. model, which has relied upon a sophisticated global intelligence apparatus, military satellite networks, and stealth capabilities. For China, the successful development of even one or two of these quantum technologies might ultimately enable an “offset” of its own, which could decisively change the future strategic balance.

John Costello is a Senior Analyst for Cyber and East Asia at Flashpoint. He is a Cybersecurity Fellow for New America and former Congressional Innovation Fellow for the majority staff in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. John is also a U.S. Navy veteran, former NSA Analyst, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

Elsa Kania is currently an analyst at the Long Term Strategy Group. She is a graduate of Harvard College (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). Elsa was a Boren Scholar in Beijing, China, and she is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Her prior professional experience includes working at the Department of Defense, FireEye, Inc., and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.



  1. Ye Zheng [叶征], Lectures on the Science of Information Operations [信息作战学习教程], Military Science Press [军事科学出版社], 2013, p. 79.
  2. The substitution of conventional encryption by quantum key distribution does not eliminate other vulnerabilities and weak links in the security of a system (e.g., Schneier on Security, October 16, 2008). In some cases, the complexity introduced by this quantum cryptographic technique may also limit the efficacy of this technology (e.g., USAF Scientific Advisory Board).
  3. See, for instance: Kevin Pollpeter, “The Chinese Vision of Space Military Operations,” in China’s Revolution in Doctrinal Affairs: Emerging Trends in the Operational Art of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, 2005, p. 329–370.
  4. Ye Zheng [叶征], Lectures on the Science of Information Operations [信息作战学习教程], Military Science Press [军事科学出版社], 2013, p. 91.
  5. In general, there are three primary forms of quantum radar, single-photon quantum radar (单光子量子雷达), interferometric quantum radar (干涉式量子雷达), and quantum entanglement radar (以及纠缠态量子雷达). Although there is limited information available about which forms of quantum radar may be currently in research and development in China, there have been patents filed for a “laser radar based on the principle of strongly correlated quantum imaging” (Zhejiang University, May 7, 2010), quantum radar and target detection methods (Tan Hong, October 22, 2014), and a “quantum entanglement radar” (Ge Wangshan, June 15, 2012).
  6. Sources for chart is as follows: CETC 14th Research Institute, September 7; Patent; CETC 38th Research Institute; China Popular Science Reader, November 3, 2009; Sina, August 31; CASC, August 20, 2015; China Space News, July 26, 2012.


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