The US Commerce Department has added a dozen Chinese tech companies to its Entity List, including a number of quantum computing businesses.

It said that the companies were helping build quantum systems for the Chinese military which could assist with "counter-stealth and counter-submarine applications, and the ability to break encryption or develop unbreakable encryption."

IBM Quantum Computer
IBM's quantum computer, which is not sanctioned – Sebastian Moss

Being added to the Entity List means that US companies are blocked from working with the firms, unless they get specific permission from the Commerce Department. Companies like Huawei, chipmaker SMIC, surveillance firm Hikvision, AI company SenseTime, and supercomputing companies Sugon, Sunway, Hygon, and Phytium were previously added to the list.

They are now joined by a number of companies and individuals across China, Japan, Pakistan, and Singapore. Of particular note are eight quantum computing companies.

The US has blacklisted Hangzhou Zhongke Microelectronics Co., Ltd., Hunan Goke Microelectronics, New H3C Semiconductor Technologies Co., Ltd., Xi’an Aerospace Huaxun Technology, Yunchip Microelectronics, Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale, QuantumCTek Co., and Shanghai QuantumCTeck Co., Ltd.

Four other Chinese tech firms were blacklisted for allegedly selling Western tech to sanctioned countries, including North Korea and Iran. They are Corad Technology (Shenzhen) Ltd., Peaktek Company Ltd.; Poly Asia Pacific Ltd., (PAPL), and Shaanxi Zhi En Electromechanical Technology Co., Ltd.

The additional technology company blacklists come after China conducted a hypersonic weapons test in July that is believed to have caught the US military off guard, with many surprised the country was that technologically advanced.

Over the past month, we have also learned that China likely operated the world's most powerful supercomputers for years - but kept it secret. It may have had both a ~315 petaflops and a ~260 petaflops system in 2019 (way above the US's 148 petaflops Summit), and is now thought to have two exascale supercomputers (even further above Summit).

The US is expected to launch two exascale supercomputers soon, Frontier and Aurora. In 2018, the government passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, adding $1.2 billion in quantum research funding over 10 years across the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

Subscribe to our daily newsletters