He is in fact at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. This made it the world’s very first quantum-encrypted intercontinental video link. This is our fundamental plan,” said Lu. Right now, the best quantum devices – which are being built by North American companies like Google, IBM and D-Wave – are yet to top 100 qubits, and have error rates as high as 50 per cent due to ‘misfiring qubits’. Jian-Wei Pan, China’s “father of quantum”, is masterminding its drive for global leadership in technologies that could change entire industries. The fundamental units of computation in these machines are qubits, which—unlike bits—can occupy a quantum state of 1 and 0 simultaneously. We have adopted multiple approaches at the same time to achieve the large-amount quantum bits entanglement,” said Lu Chaoyang, professor with the University of Science and Technology of China. US firms claim they’ll have a working quantum computer within five to ten years, but in China estimates are more conservative. Looking much further ahead, the technology could one day be used to secure everything from smartphones to laptops. In 2014, there were a similar number of patents filed in the United States and China, but by 2017 China filed almost twice as many, according to Patinformatics. But it’s not quite like that. Quantum communications and computing are still nascent, but they are among the technological “megaprojects” on which China’s government wants breakthroughs by 2030. Jian-Wei Pan agrees. “Our next plan is to surpass the conventional computers using integrated circuits in human history, then surpass the fastest commercial computers of our times, and then surpass the supercomputers. But perhaps Apollo – born from a fierce rivalry between the USA and the USSR – is not the right comparison to make. China is producing plenty of high-quality quantum science papers, and the number of Chinese patents being registered in areas like quantum communications and quantum cryptography has also soared, far surpassing those being registered in the US and elsewhere. Will Bedingfield, By What made this event so special was that the keys distributed by the satellite were encoded in photons in a delicate quantum state. “The shipment has been previously issued with an Alert Order. Laurie Clarke, By As technological advancements progress, expect nations to be more secretive about their capabilities. The control of multi-degrees of freedom is another effective approach for us to further increase the number of the controllable quantum bits. Some Chinese cities are also building municipal networks. In fact, IBM already offers a service like this. Quantum technology could break the strongest forms of encryption and provide a big jump in computing power, with potentially huge political and economic implications. President Xi funded a multi-billion-dollar quantum computing mega-project with the expectation of achieving significant quantum breakthroughs by 2030. Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Anton Zeilinger is a quantum physicist at the University of Austria. So is China really set to dominate the emerging quantum era? The UK is at the forefront of quantum algorithms. It’s tempting to paint the development of quantum computing and cryptography as a zero-sum game – China vs America for the global technological crown. Observers were impressed, says Hoi-Kwong Lo, a physics professor at the University of Toronto. Capita, Belarus has torn up the protest rulebook. A more optimistic view sees China remaining open to the kinds of interchanges that have helped turn it into a quantum superpower, and doing its utmost to profit from a new, quantum-inspired data economy. The video encryption was conventional, not quantum, but because the quantum keys were required to decrypt it, its security was guaranteed. “In the field of quantum communications we are ahead of our colleagues over the world,” says Pan, who has said his work was given new impetus and urgency by Snowden’s disclosures. His work has won plaudits from President Xi Jinping, and he’s often referred to in local media as “the father of quantum.”. Katia Moskvitch, In partnership with The 2,032-­kilometer (1,263-mile) ground link between Beijing and Shanghai was also masterminded by Pan and sends quantum-encrypted keys between way stations, offering an ultra-secure network for transmitting financial and other sensitive data. Meanwhile, members of the diplomatic service or holders of C-visas are not covered by the ban including international transport workers such as airline crews. If one country gets there first, it could cause problems – the CNAS report talks of ‘quantum surprise,’ when one country develops technology that others don’t even know about. “When he came here, he was one hundred percent focused on theoretical physics,” recalls Zeilinger. The answer to the first of those questions is nuanced. China’s investments have certainly put it in a strong position, but it’s not clear which approaches will work, and what they could lead to – the big breakthrough could come from the $10bn quantum hub in Hefei, or from a relatively small investment elsewhere. And what will it do with that dominance if so? “It’s important in terms of creating a quantum environment in China,” says Artur Ekert, a professor of quantum physics at the University of Oxford, who proposed the theory behind Micius. Big Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Baidu are investing heavily in quantum computing, too. One of the shipments arrived last May 14 while the other shipment arrived last June 9 at Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. However, as Pan’s team’s success with entangling qubits shows, it’s making swift progress. “Now, with quantum technology, if we try our best we can be one of the main players.” Pan has been dubbed "the father of quantum" by the scientific journal Nature, and is one of two key individuals behind China’s advances in quantum technology. “For me it will take some 20 or 30 years.”, Chinese companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu have also entered the quantum race, but they’re a little late to the party. Building a quantum computer is an immensely difficult and delicate task, because the slightest environmental interference can nudge qubits out of the state of superposition that makes them so useful for plotting complex, probabilistic paths. Cybersecurity experts live in fear of ‘Q-Day’ – the date when a quantum computer is developed that can break most modern cryptographic standards. This is in relation to the country’s arbitral award on the disputed territory against China. Instead of bits – which are either 1s or 0s – quantum computers use qubits, which can exist in more than one state. "I think we have started a worldwide quantum space race," he said. China’s quantum ambition has parallels with similar investments in artificial intelligence, and stems partly from a desire to position the country as the technological leader of the decades the come. According to Young, it’s not really clear what the most promising applications of quantum computing will be – there are likely useful applications for quantum computing that we can’t even conceive of at the moment. You can opt out at any time or find out more by reading our cookie policy. The number of patents filed by Chinese companies relating to quantum computing has shot up in the last few years. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll have quantum chips in our personal computers or laptops – instead, we’ll probably access centrally located quantum computers via the cloud. The field is fragmenting, with different research groups trying varied approaches, and countries putting their resources behind a diverse range of projects. Despite the intense US-China competition in quantum technologies, the video call made possible by the Micius satellite—named for an ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher—is very much a result of international cooperation. “But I realized he could do more, so I suggested he switch to experiments, and he did that very successfully.”. Less than an hour later, the satellite passed over Austria and dispatched another data packet to a station near the city of Graz. Matt Burgess and James Temperton, One country could take the lead, but for quantum to become a truly revolutionary technology will require a global effort. Gauging exactly how much China is investing in these and other quantum projects is hard because funding for government programs is opaque. It’s a race that China is desperate to win. “Now we have a chance … to be a leader.”. In the US, the big tech companies are focussed on pushing up the qubit-count and bringing down the error rate on quantum computers. “In the last five years, China has invested very heavily in quantum technologies,” says Robert Young, director of the Lancaster Quantum Technology Centre, and an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fundamental and Frontier Science in Chengdu. It sees an opportunity to lead the dawning quantum era in much the same way that the US dominated the advent of computing and the information revolution that it sparked.