China’s fastest ‘serial’ quantum computer is six times weaker than IBM’s newest quantum system

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Despite China’s significant progress in developing, patenting, and implementing quantum communication and academic research, the country lags behind the United States in practical quantum computer implementation. China’s latest quantum platform, Wukong, is reportedly six times weaker than IBM’s Quantum System Two, and it could take years to close this gap.

As per the management of the Chinese company Origin Quantum Computing Technology, the 72-qubit Wukong system, currently the most powerful in China, is undergoing final testing and will be shipped to the customer in July. The company admitted in February that its first ‘serial’ quantum system was supplied to an undisclosed client in 2021.

The Wukong system could be considered equivalent to IBM’s quantum computers in the West, being fully-fledged platforms ready for customer exploitation, rather than do-it-yourself kits.

IBM had announced 433-qubit superconducting processors and Quantum System Two based on them late last year, which nominally leaves the Chinese serial computer six times weaker than its American counterpart. This comparison is merely indicative, but it roughly illustrates the degree of lag of Chinese developers behind their American colleagues.

According to Origin Quantum Computing’s management, they are 3–4 years behind IBM and Western quantum computing platform developers. Overcoming this lag will require years of intense work, not to mention the ‘bonus’ of sanction pressure.

Sanctions are seen as a significant obstacle by the Chinese developer’s management. Quantum chips require modern lithographic processes and rare materials. Origin Quantum Computing sees an issue in the halt of supplies to China of Japanese-made electron beam lithography equipment. The company is seeking and finding ways to evade sanctions, for instance, initiating joint research projects with Taiwan’s Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing, with which it has a JV Nexchip in Hefei, where Origin Quantum Computing’s head office is located.

Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing (PSMC) is the third-largest chipmaker in Taiwan. Its thinnest technologies are 55-nm, which are not subject to US sanctions. Powerchip’s productions can manufacture hundreds of thousands of Origin Quantum Computing processors and meet the company’s chip needs. Although this will not allow the Chinese company to catch up with Intel’s tech processes and quantum chips, it will foster the development of the quantum industry in China.

Origin Quantum Computing was founded in 2017 by two Chinese scientists and has accumulated all the advanced academic knowledge in quantum computation in the country. The company is developing a range of quantum processors, from superconducting to spin ones. From this variety, something should surely emerge. The company also boasts the only practical quantum computers in China that can be called serial.

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Martin Harris
I'm Martin Harris, a tech writer with extensive experience, contributing to global publications. Trained in Computer Science, I merged my technical know-how with writing, becoming a technology journalist. I've covered diverse topics like AI and consumer electronics, contributing to top tech platforms. I participate in tech events for knowledge updating. Besides writing, I enjoy reading, photography, and aim to clarify technology's complexities to readers.

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