(VoiceofAmericaNews) China’s advances in quantum computing will give a new advantage to its armed forces, already the world’s third strongest, analysts say.
“I think the challenge is basically in the dual civilian-military strategy of China where the government will enlist the private sector into its military modernization program,” said Alexander Vuving, professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, in Hawaii. “Also, the government of China spends a lot of money in research and development.”
It’s unclear how far Chinese researchers have advanced quantum computing, but the Pentagon’s 2021 report to Congress on China says the Asian superpower “continues its pursuit of leadership in key technologies with significant military potential.”
China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, an economic blueprint, prioritizes quantum technology among other new fields, the report to Congress adds, and it intends to install satellite-enabled, global “quantum-encrypted communications capability” by 2030.
Quantum could help detect submarines and stealth aircraft among other “military vehicles,” said Heather West, a senior research analyst with market research firm IDC in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Quantum computing can break “classical algorithms” to check on another country’s military, she told VOA.
China has alarmed other countries in the past by merging civilian and military infrastructure, part of a Military-Civil Fusion Development Strategy that makes it hard for the outside world to judge when academic research will become an asset of the People’s Liberation Army.
Although quantum computing worldwide remains at a “nascent stage,” multiple countries are in a race to develop it, Vuving said. He points to the United States, India, Japan and Germany, in addition to China. Any frontrunners are unlikely to last long, he said, as rivals would quickly copy their breakthroughs.
The People’s Liberation Army maintains the world’s third-strongest armed forces after the United States and Russia, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database. Japan, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries fret particularly over the expansion of the PLA Navy in disputed tracts of sea. Washington has stepped up military movement in the same seas since 2019 to monitor China’s activities.
“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 to defend,” said Chen Yi-fan, assistant professor of diplomacy and international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan.