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US Restricts Exports to Top Quantum Labs in China

JUN 10, 2024
The restrictions reflect concern that supporting quantum research in China poses national security risks.
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory for Quantum Information in Hefei

The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Key Laboratory for Quantum Information is among the institutions subject to new export controls.

(Costfoto / NurPhoto via AP)

Last month, the Commerce Department placed stringent export controls on many of the top quantum research centers in China. The department singled out 22 institutions for “their participation in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) quantum technology advancements and for acquiring or attempting to acquire U.S.-origin items to enhance the PRC’s quantum capabilities.” It added that these technologies “have substantial military applications and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security.”

Among the affected institutions are four branches of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Hefei National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science, and the University of Science and Technology of China. USTC was also targeted for “advancing China’s nuclear program.”

The department placed these institutions on the “Entity List,” requiring them to secure a license to acquire U.S.-origin technologies. The department also indicated it would likely deny such license requests.

Fundamental research partnerships are generally exempt from these controls, but having affiliations with institutions on the Entity List can be considered a risk factor in federal funding decisions. For instance, the Department of Defense can reject grant proposals from applicants with such ties or require their home institutions to implement risk mitigation plans.

This is not the first time the department has restricted exports to quantum technology organizations in China. In 2021, the department added eight entities to the list for contributing to “quantum computing efforts that support military applications, such as counter-stealth and counter-submarine applications, and the ability to break encryption or develop unbreakable encryption.”

In announcing the latest additions, the department emphasized that it has added more Chinese institutions to the Entity List during the Biden administration than any previous administration.

Kevin Wolf, who led the department’s export control arm during the Obama administration, said in an interview that the new additions are notable because their sole justification is participation in the Chinese quantum industry. The additions thus represent a “declaration by the Biden administration that providing support to China’s quantum industry is a national security threat,” Wolf said.

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