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Washington Puts Chinese Quantum Computing Firms On Blacklist

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: November 27, 2021
Washington has imposed export restrictions on numerous Chinese quantum computing firms. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The U.S. government has taken action against Chinese companies involved in quantum computing and other advanced technologies, putting them in an export blacklist. Washington argues that these firms pose a threat to national interests as they might gain access to American technologies that can end up benefiting the Chinese military.

In the trade blacklist released on Nov. 24, the U.S. Commerce Department added 27 new entities from four nations, many of them from China and its ally Pakistan. Some of these institutions are said to be playing a critical role in Pakistan’s missile program and nuclear activities. 

The blacklist includes eight companies from China – Hangzhou Zhongke Microelectronics Co., Ltd., Shanghai Quantum Tech Co., Ltd, Hunan Goke Microelectronics, Yunchip Microelectronics, New H3C Semiconductor Technologies Co., Ltd., Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale, Xi’an Aerospace Huaxun Technology, and Quantum Tek Co.

The commerce department stated that there is a risk of critical technologies like counter-stealth, counter-submarine, and encryption, being accessed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) via Chinese firms. By restricting exports to these companies, the PRC’s “military modernization efforts” would be negatively impacted.

Sixteen entities and individuals operating in China and Pakistan were added to the list. Three affiliates of a Chinese company, Corad Technology Limited, were also included as they were suspected of transferring technology from the West to North Korea and Iran. One entity from Russia, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, was added as well due to it being involved in producing military goods for a military end-user.

“Today’s actions will help prevent the diversion of U.S. technologies to the PRC’s and Russia’s military advancement and activities of non-proliferation concern like Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program. The Department of Commerce is committed to effectively using export controls to protect our national security,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement.

China expressed its displeasure at the U.S. move. Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for the Chinese commerce ministry, said during a news conference that Beijing opposes the blacklisting. The Chinese Embassy in Washington accused the U.S. government of using a “catch-all concept of national security” and abusing state power to “suppress and restrict” Chinese entities in all possible means.

Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu insisted that the United States “follow the spirit” of the recent virtual meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. He asked Washington to “meet China halfway” instead of going down the “wrong path.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Beijing will take all necessary steps to protect Chinese companies as well as initiate countermeasures to the blacklisting.

Some experts supported Washington’s decision. “This is a sensible move and an important reminder of the scope and scale of China’s efforts to achieve technological breakthroughs that erode US national security,” Martijn Rasser, a former CIA official who heads the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security think-tank, told FT.

The Commerce Department blacklist comes as U.S. intelligence agencies are taking proactive steps to protect the country’s institutions from external threats.

On Oct. 22, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) launched an outreach campaign to instruct and warn American organizations involved in critical technologies about the dangers posed by foreign spying operations. It singled out China and Russia in particular as seeking to steal or co-opt American technologies.“

In recent months, NCSC has begun engagements with various entities in these sectors to provide information on nation-state threats to their organizations and ways to mitigate risks… We plan to step up our engagements and broaden our reach going forward. Our goal is to reach the broadest audience possible,” Dean Boyd, chief communications executive for the NCSC, told The Epoch Times.