China is closing the gap on US quantum dominance
Patents for quantum computing technology have surpassed those for quantum communication, challenging US supremacy in the field.
China is closing the gap on US quantum dominance
2T2C: Talent, Technology, Capital, Cognition

China is closing the gap on US quantum dominance

Eurasia 05/04/2024 16:31

Patents for quantum computing technology have surpassed those for quantum communication, challenging US supremacy in the field.

The United States and China have pursued different strategies to develop quantum technology – China has focused on using quantum science to secure communications, while the US has sought to develop advanced computing capabilities.

But the latest patent data released by China’s intellectual property office suggests Beijing may be shifting its approach in a field the US has long held a lead in, according to South China Morning Post

Quantum computing, in which quantum science is harnessed to solve complex problems significantly faster than classical computers, accounted for 56.5 per cent of China’s total domestic patent grants from 2013 to 2022.

Quantum communications, which use quantum physics to secure data, accounted for 30.3 per cent of domestic patents during the same period, according to a paper in the March edition of the journal China Invention & Patent published by the China National Intellectual Property Administration.

In the past 10 years, China’s quantum technology has “achieved a historical leap” from lagging behind top countries to becoming a leader in patents and production, the paper said, in reference to the country’s domestic quantum landscape.
In the same period, the country has achieved “quantum superiority”, according to another paper on global quantum patents in the same edition of the journal.

China accounted for 37 per cent of quantum patent applications worldwide from 2003 to 2022, surpassing the US at just over 28 per cent, the paper said.

In particular, China has emerged as a clear leader in the field of quantum communication, with milestones like the launch of the first quantum communications satellite.

However, when it comes to quantum computing and quantum sensing – or advanced motion-detection technology – it is widely accepted that the US has long held the lead.

A 2022 report by the London-based data analytics company GlobalData stated that China trailed the US in quantum computing technology by about five years.

But a new report released last month by the same company said that the countries now “stand almost neck-in-neck”.

The US is thought to have a lead in most aspects of quantum computing, except in specific subcategories like superconducting-related research, according to a report presented last month by the American think tank RAND Corporation to a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing.

The RAND report, however, said China’s edge in specific aspects of quantum computing made the US lead “debatable”.

The US incorporated quantum technology into national planning in 1994, while China only integrated the technology into national planning in 2013, according to the paper on global quantum technology.

China in 2009 surpassed the US in total quantum patent applications for the first time, despite its later start in the field.

“It has developed rapidly”, the paper said, allowing it to produce advanced technologies at a leading level alongside the US. Still, the US still holds the largest share of highly-cited quantum patents, mostly in quantum computing.

Chinese scientists also publish less impactful research on quantum sensing, which has more significant military potential, according to the RAND report.

However, quantum sensing has been gaining considerably more attention in China, and patents are expected to significantly rise, according to the Chinese paper.

International cooperation between scientists is a major feature of quantum research.

Last year, US president Joe Biden issued an executive order to restrict US investment into advanced technologies like quantum that was linked to countries of concern – such as China.

The RAND report – introduced at a hearing about the military deployment of quantum technology in China – suggested that “narrowly targeted” export controls on Chinese organisations would present a low risk to impacting American scientific progress in the country.

In contrast, the Chinese report on global quantum patents said that “international cooperation needs to be deepened and expanded”, including through technical cooperation with the US.

Despite major advancements in China’s quantum technology, the paper said that the environment for innovation still “needs to be optimised”, including more policy planning.

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