by Eesha Javadekar
According to people familiar with the matter, the Biden administration is considering additional export restrictions that would limit China’s access to some of the most powerful emerging computing technologies.
The promising early-stage ideas focus on the still-experimental area of quantum computers and artificial intelligence (AI) software, according to people who have asked for anonymity to reveal private thoughts. They said industry experts are weighing how to set the boundaries for this emerging technology.
If enacted, these measures would follow the announcement of other limits earlier this month aimed at restricting Beijing’s ability to use cutting-edge semiconductors in weapons and surveillance systems.
The United States has stepped up efforts to hamper China’s ability to develop key technologies in its struggle with its main strategic adversary. Expansionary measures released earlier this month also restricted US citizens and residents from taking part in Chinese tech companies.
In a speech he delivered last month on technology, competitiveness and national security, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan cited “computational technologies, including microelectronics, quantum information systems and artificial intelligence” as developments that will “play an outsized role over the next decade.” He also emphasized the need for export restrictions in order to “keep the greatest possible lead” over competitors.
Adding breakthrough technologies to the wall risks further alienating China and urging other nations to choose sides between the world’s two largest economies. People claim the new ideas were shared with US allies.
Quantum computing is an experimental field that has the potential to significantly improve computing power and speed, allowing machines to solve problems beyond the capabilities of today’s generation of computers.
Quantum machines could be powerful enough to crack passwords and bypass encryption security measures, which is expected to one day revolutionize computer security systems.
Officials are said to still be figuring out how to structure controls for quantum computers, which will likely focus on output levels and what’s known as the error correction rate.
Microsoft, Alphabet’s Google, Intel and International Business Machines are investing millions of dollars in quantum-related research initiatives.
Unlike ordinary computers, which interpret data as “ones” and “zeros,” a quantum machine can store information in multiple states — as a one, a zero, both, or something else — based on the concept of “superposition.” This allows quantum systems to multitask in ways that binary technology cannot.
For example, a typical computer searching for a name in a phone book organized by number might search one number at a time. A quantum computer could scan them all at the same time.
Existing quantum systems require unusual cooling technologies to generate the ultracold temperatures needed to control and detect the quantum states of subatomic particles. That’s the biggest obstacle.
The Biden administration is also working on an executive order for an export investment screening process that would screen funds destined for certain Chinese technologies and, according to one of the sources, could include regulations on quantum computing and artificial intelligence. This may bear some similarities to a bill proposed by Senators Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.