(TheDiplomat) Abhijnan Rej, Security & Defense Editor at The Diplomat, discusses America’s concern that China’s quantum push could translate to a geopolitical edge for the country. And this is not entirely unfounded. In 2018, for example, Chinese scientists filed 492 patents on quantum tech, a little more than twice as many as their American counterparts.
China’s progress in quantum communications has profound military implications, rendering them unbreakable as a matter of physical law. The country made headlines globally in 2016 when it launched Micius, the world’s first quantum communications satellite. Proof published in May this year shows that communications using Micius is unhackable. A team of Chinese researchers reported in February that they had managed to entangle clouds of atoms 50-kilometers apart using a fiber optic cable, a significant proof-of-concept towards a quantum internet. Communications using such a network would be unbreakably encrypted, thanks to quantum-mechanical principles at its core.
It is, therefore, of little surprise that the National Quantum Initiative involves the intelligence community (IC) including the National Security Agency, as well as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency – the IC’s high-tech R&D shop. IARPA already has several quantum computing programs. On its part the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been a pioneer in demonstrating proof of concept around quantum key distribution, the first step toward land or space-based quantum communication networks. In February, NQCO published an extremely ambitious vision document around building a quantum internet.