China’s significant investment in quantum technology is helping it close the gap in Western research, worrying some U.S. officials who emphasize the big economic and national-security advantages to countries that dominate the field, The Washington Post reports.
“The United States must be prepared for a future in which its traditional technological predominance faces new, perhaps unprecedented challenges,” the Center for a New American Security wrote in a recent report about the strides Beijing has made in quantum technology.
Quantum technology aims to harness the distinct properties of atoms, photons and electrons to create more powerful tools for processing information.
China’s massive efforts in the area have sparked calls in the U.S. for more research and development funding and raised alarms in the Trump administration that some scientific collaboration with Beijing may be harming American interests, according to the Post.
One area of specific concern is that China is harnessing qubits to safeguard its communications from hacking, a field in which it appears to have a lead.
An almost 1,300-mile fiber link connecting Beijing, Shanghai and other cities is already up and running, and when the nationwide network is complete, some fear Beijing could severely hinder American efforts to eavesdrop on its government or military communications.
The concern over the issue is such that two U.S. university associations wrote in Inside HigherEd earlier this month that their members were strengthening security protocols and building closer ties with the FBI and intelligence agencies, especially since there are so many Chinese students and faculty at Americans institutes of higher education studying the field.
Congress has also reacted to the threat, passing legislation last year which authorized an additional $1.2 billion in research funding in quantum technology over five years.