A scientist works on a quantum computing project at a research facility in China. Source: CCTV / YouTube screen grab

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Echoing the concern felt by Western countries following the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite, China’s advancements in the field of quantum technology is setting off alarm bells in the US.

Soon after Chinese scientists utilized a quantum satellite to transmit ultra-secure data, as McClatchy DC recounts, the country set up a 1,243-mile quantum link between Shanghai and Beijing and announced a US$10 billion quantum computing center.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that their scientists are better,” McClatchy reported Martin Laforest, a physicist at University of Waterloo as saying. “It’s just that when they say, ‘We need a billion dollars to do this,’ bam, the money comes.”

“We don’t know exactly where the United States is. I fervently hope that a lot of this work is taking place in a classified setting,” said R. Paul Stimers, a lawyer specializing in emerging technologies at Washington law firm K&L Gates. “It is a race.”

Referring to news last June that China had successfully tested quantum communication between a satellite and a ground station, chief executive of cyber security firm Symantec Gregory Clark said, “I read that on a Sunday and went, ‘oh sh-t.’”

If the technology — not known have been developed by the US military or private industry — is refined, Clark said, it could make land-based communications infrastructure obsolete. “The whole world changes,” he said at a forum in September.

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