The updated US ‘Entity List’ names 22 of China’s key players in quantum research and industry among 37 of its targeted companies and institutes. The move could have major repercussions for quantum research in China, from access to advanced equipment to academic exchanges.

The US’ latest trade restrictions on China are “unprecedented” and will have a “far-reaching impact” on Chinese quantum research, the country’s physicists have warned.

This comes after the U.S. Department of Commerce’s updated export control list, released on Thursday, named 22 of China’s key players in quantum research and industrialization among the 37 Chinese “entities” targeted.

The additions to the blacklist, officially known as the “Entity List,” are intended to prevent U.S. companies from selling materials and equipment to the targeted entities.

This is the second time that quantum research institutes and companies have been added to the commercial blacklist, but the scope is much broader, according to Chinese scientists.

“Almost all of China’s major strengths in quantum information research have been listed,” said Yin Zhangqi, a physicist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, who described the impact as “huge.”

Among the new participants, “22 institutes and companies were added… to acquire or attempt to acquire items of North American origin to improve quantum capabilities [da China],” the US department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said in a statement about the update.

“These activities have substantial military applications and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security,” he said.

China’s high-tech sector, including quantum information technology, especially related to its defense capabilities, has been the target of US sanctions for years. In November 2021, two quantum communications companies and a research institute became the first Chinese entities to be placed on its export blacklist.

And in August of last year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order blocking the flow of US dollars for Chinese semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technology and certain artificial intelligence systems, in an ongoing effort to make it harder for China to access such technologies. .

Several quantum physicists told the South China Morning Post that the latest US move could have major repercussions for related research in the country, ranging from access to advanced equipment to academic exchanges.

A scientist surnamed Liu, who works at one of the targeted research institutes, called the latest scan “unprecedented” – as “almost all laboratories [chineses] that involve quantum research were listed.”

The scientist, who did not want to reveal his full name due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that a laser ordered last year was about to be shipped from the United States, but has just been informed that it could be held at customs.

One company on the list, Origin Quantum Computing Technology, was founded in 2017 by two leading USTC quantum physicists and is the backbone of China’s quantum computing research and its industrial applications.

USTC, or University of Science and Technology of China, is a pioneering national quantum research institute. Pan Jianwei, nicknamed the country’s “father of quantum”, is a professor at the university.

The university is also an innovation hub that has spawned many start-ups, thanks to constant scientific advances, a competitive talent pool and generous support from the local government.

China’s first practical quantum computer was delivered by Origin in 2021. Origin Wukong – China’s first domestically developed third-generation superconducting quantum computer – was opened to global users in January.

Four research centers of the main Chinese Academy of Sciences, including the Center of Excellence in Quantum Information and Quantum Physics, Institute of Physics, Key Laboratory for Quantum Information, Shanghai Institute of Microsystems and Information Technology, are also on the updated sanctions list .

Others include research institutes across China such as the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences, the Shanghai Quantum Science Research Center and the Shenzhen Institute of Quantum Science and Engineering.

Quantum research at USTC has benefited from sending students and researchers to the West for training, said Yin of the Beijing Institute of Technology. But while many USTC graduates may continue to go to the US for higher studies, the latest measure will undoubtedly act as a shock absorber.

Yin also said that because the sanctions list was issued by the Commerce Department and is not directly related to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it is unlikely to have a direct impact on USTC students’ visa applications in the short term.

However, the blacklist indicates that the US will become increasingly strict in granting visa approvals to Chinese students in STEM-related fields, he added, referring to the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

In a live chat yesterday on the social media platform WeChat, a USTC scientist said the continued tightening of US containment measures could have “far-reaching implications” for quantum research in China.

One possible consequence, he said, would be that Chinese researchers could have more difficulty publishing articles in top academic journals such as Nature and Science, with their discoveries likely to be subject to greater scrutiny to ensure compliance with sanctions. from the USA.

But despite the challenges, Liu struck an optimistic note. Compared to other high-tech sectors such as semiconductors and AI, the quantum gap between Chinese players and their Western counterparts was not that large, he said.

China is accelerating efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in cutting-edge quantum equipment, Liu said. As for obstacles to studying abroad, he said this could actually be good for China.

“If more academically talented students can stay at home, China can accelerate scientific progress.”

Report from South China Morning Post.


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