US Blocks Exports Of Quantum Computing Technology To Chinese Organizations

Honeywell quantum computer

An ion chamber houses the brain of a Honeywell quantum computer.


The Commerce Department on Friday banned US companies from exporting quantum computer technology to eight Chinese companies and labs to try to stop the country from decrypting sensitive American communications and developing new military technology.

“Global trade and commerce should support peace, prosperity and high-paying jobs, not national security risks,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

While still technologically immature, quantum computers could eventually crack conventional encryption. The US government is also leading an active program to develop post-quantum cryptography, but communications intercepted today could be exposed if quantum computers become powerful enough.

Quantum computers take advantage of the physics of the ultra-small to perform a radically different type of computation than conventional computer chips in today’s phones, laptops and supercomputers. But today they only operate on a small scale, are prone to errors that derail calculations, and are finicky enough to require ultra-cold conditions.

The department also pointed to military risks in the field of quantum computers related to “counter-stealth and anti-submarine applications.” It contained detailed information about the Chinese organizations that have been added to the list of entities related to export controls in the Federal Register.

Another market where quantum computers also have potential is the simulation of molecular structures that can lead to new materials. Military technology has benefited greatly from materials science in the past, so quantum computing could lead to new breakthroughs.

To take advantage of these breakthroughs, many US companies are investing billions of dollars in the development of quantum computers. That includes Google, IBM, Microsoft, Honeywell, IonQ, Rigetti, D-Wave and Intel. Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in November Chinese researchers are linked with Google in the race to developing quantum computer technology.

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