Quantum science leaps forward in China under Xi’s support: report

Published (HKT): 2021.01.08 18:49

China has developed the world’s first quantum communications network between satellites and the ground, according to Chinese researchers who say it is capable of defending against all currently known quantum hacking methods.

Quantum technology was an area to which Chinese President Xi Jinping previously pledged to channel funds, and this week, university scholars released a paper in an international academic journal to confirm the feasibility of establishing a quantum network.

Chinese communications technology in quantum encryption was starting to mature, they claimed, pointing to a successful connection across more than 4,600 kilometers between a Beijing-Shanghai quantum network and the Mozi satellite.

The breakthrough was a world first, said the scholars from the University of Science and Technology of China and other research institutions. They announced the progress in the paper, “An integrated space-to-ground quantum communication network over 4,600 kilometers,” published by weekly British scientific journal Nature on Thursday.

The connection combined a fiber network of more than 700 fiber quantum key distribution (QKD) links and two high-speed satellite-to-ground free-space QKD links, according to the paper.

QKD techniques had the potential of enabling secure communications and information transfer. The research team said it spent more than two years conducting stability and safety tests involving more than 150 users in finance, power and government administration.

Xi has stressed that China will advance the development of quantum science and technology. In October, he told a group study session of the Politburo of the Communist Party that the government had to develop the field with more strategic planning, supportive policies and investment.

The Beijing-Shanghai quantum communications network, opened in 2017, runs to more than 2,000 kilometers and covers 32 modes in four provinces and three cities. The research team proved that the network could withstand all presently known quantum hacking methods and ensure cybersecurity, the paper said.

In the same year, the Chinese government completed the building of a national science and technology center in Hefei, the capital city of Anhui province, at the cost of 3.5 billion yuan (US$541 million). Plans are for the center to include a national laboratory of quantum information in the future.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has also earmarked a budget of 8 billion Taiwanese dollars (US$286 million) in the next five years to undertake research and development in quantum technology.

Quantum technology was among technologies including artificial intelligence that were set to lead the world, Professor Lo Hoi-kwong, director of the research division of the University of Hong Kong physics department, told Apple Daily.

The technology could be applied to military, financial and communications purposes, Lo said.

While China was in a leading role in the application of quantum communications, Lo believed that in terms of quantum computing technology, the United States was in the lead.

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