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This article maps the Chinese private effort in the race to quantum (updated 11 October 2019). It builds upon the previous article, which detailed the efforts of the large Chinese IT companies in terms of Quantum Information Science (QIS) investments (★ The Chinese BATX in the Race to Quantum Computing: from Research to Venture Capital through Drugs and Fintech). It translates in graphs the main findings of our research.
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Using exclusively open source information in both Chinese and English, we found that only the first three of the famous BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi) had declared strategies and actions in the quantum world. After Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, we examined Huawei, as well as Quantum CTek, as actors of the Chinese private quantum effort. Finally, we also looked at the Chinese supercomputers manufacturers and did not find any open evidence of investment in QIS.
A country-wide division of labour?
As shown in the graph below, it is interesting to see that a division of labour of sorts takes place among the main private Chinese Quantum actors.
(The 11 October 2019 graph was updated to include Qasky 问天量子 – Anhui Qasky Quantum Technology Co. Ltd, specialised in Quantum cryptography and communication and created in 2009).
Three out of four private actors develop quantum platforms where the quantum computing capabilities may be tested and experimented.
Tencent appear to specialise itself in experimenting and developing applications for QIS. Its main focuses are pharmaceuticals and finance, notably communication and security, and potentially simulations. Tencent thus contributes to spread QIS in the real world. It will ease early adoption of QIS and their applications.
Baidu is especially strong in venture capital. This strength is still only a potential as far as quantum technologies are concerned. Indeed, Baidu venture capital is currently mainly targeting artificial intelligence, but quantum is also underlined as a field of interest. As a result, Baidu should be able to invest rapidly in any promising quantum technology or application. This could prove a crucial advantage for China in the future, notably once efforts towards quantum computing increasingly bear fruits.
From research to market, beyond the public-private divide
If most private actors carry out research in QIS, so far Alibaba dominates that field. It does so notably in collaboration with the research public sector. The creation of Quantum CTek, as a child of the research of the University of Science and Technology of China, confirms the importance of the public sector for research in QIS.
Thus, assessing the potentiality of the Chinese ecosystem demands to look at both the public and private sectors. Together the private and the public create a relatively dense network. Furthermore, public research has notably been active since 2013 (see for details and sources Quantum, AI, and Geopolitics (3): Mapping The Race for Quantum Computing).
That trend is not specific to China. Worldwide, for the race to quantum, the divisions public-private and research-commercial are blurred, if not misleading. This disappearance of classical categorisations is, actually, a striking feature of the global quantum ecosystem. It will most probably also impact the future quantum-powered world.
Featured image: From article ARL Public Affairs, “Army scientists explore properties to make or break quantum entanglement“, 2 April 2018. Public Domain.