China trails US, Europe in quantum computing development: researcher

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Tencent-logo China trails US, Europe in quantum computing development: researcher US Tencent News
Tencent’s booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference on August 30, 2019 in Shanghai. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Zhang Shengyu, a prominent researcher at Chinese tech giant Tencent, said that China will not be able to match the US and Europe in quantum computing “within two or three years,” the South China Morning Post reported.

Why it matters: Though commercially viable applications for the technology have yet to materialize, its potential to upend information processing makes quantum computing one of the most highly anticipated computing technologies currently in development. 

  • The global quantum computing market is projected to reach around $5 billion to $10 billion between 2020 and 2025.
  • China’s quantum “megaproject,” which seeks to achieve breakthroughs by 2030 as part of its 13th five-year plan, indicates Beijing’s interest in becoming competitive in the field despite its domestic industry being significantly younger than that of the US. 

“People are always talking about the possible applications, such as in materials, medicine and artificial intelligence. But how to make it a reality is a problem puzzling the world.”

—Zhang Shenyu, Tencent Quantum Lab Director 

Details: In comments made on the sidelines of Tencent’s fourth Teng Yun Summit in Beijing, Zhang also said that the US and Europe are outpacing China in “breakthroughs and talent acquisitions.” 

  • Zhang was a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong before joining Tencent’s Quantum Lab last January. 
  • The lab was established early last year and “aims to connect fundamental theory with practical applications in the fast-growing sector of quantum information technology,” according to its website.
  • According to Zhang, Tencent is not pressuring his lab to commercialize its innovations.

Context: According to the report, Chinese tech companies have only been exploring quantum computing for the past few years, compared with US firms like Google and Intel who have been focusing on the technology for significantly longer.   

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government spends at least $2.5 billion a year on quantum research—more than 10 times what the US spends. 
  • China’s $10 billion facility for the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei, the capital of eastern Anhui province, is due to open in 2020. 
  • It is part of a larger multi-location quantum information lab that will integrate resources from across the nation. 
  • Scientists at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei recently announced successful experiments with their single photon detector on China’s Micius communication satellite, an important step in achieving functional quantum communication. 

China is building a massive multi-location national-level quantum laboratory