China creates its largest ever quantum computing chip — and it could be key to building the nation's own 'quantum cloud'

Red electronic circuit board.
Scientists build biggest quantum computing chip created by China to date. (Image credit: selensergen via Getty Images)

Scientists in China have developed a 504-qubit quantum computing chip that will be made available to researchers worldwide via a new quantum computing cloud platform.

The new chip, called "Xiaohong," is the biggest built by China to date and is designed to improve systems that manage the behavior and interaction of quantum bits, or qubits, in quantum computers, state-owned China Daily reported. The scientists hope the chip will help to scale up existing quantum computers so they can handle more complex tasks.

Xiaohong was developed by scientists at the Center for Excellence in Quantum Information and Quantum Physics, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Chinese quantum computing company QuantumCTek, which received the first Xiaohong chip, will now reportedly work alongside China Telecom Quantum Group to integrate the 504-qubit chip into a new quantum computer.

This system will then be made available to researchers worldwide via a quantum computing cloud platform developed by China Telecom Quantum Group, according to the report.

Wang Zhen, deputy general manager of China Telecom Quantum Group, said in a statement the new system would "allow users in various fields to conduct research on problems and algorithms of practical value efficiently, and accelerate the application of quantum computing in actual scenarios."

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Xiaohong is designed to meet the performance standards of cloud-enabled quantum computing platforms like those made by IBM or AWS. But it's not intended as a technical rival to cutting-edge U.S. technology — such as the 1,121-qubit IBM Quantum Condor chip, said Gong Ming, a researcher at the Center for Excellence in Quantum Information and Quantum Physics.

Instead, the scientists hope access to Xiaohong via the cloud will promote the development of large-scale quantum computing measurement and control systems (QCMCSs).

Quantum computers work fundamentally differently from classical computers. Unlike classical bits, which can only be represented as 0 or 1, qubits can exist in multiple states simultaneously. This enables quantum computers to perform calculations in parallel and at near-unimaginable speeds if qubits are stitched together through quantum entanglement.

QCMCSs, meanwhile, are components that play a crucial role in quantum computing — acting as a bridge that connects traditional computers with quantum computers. This connection enables quantum computers to interpret commands received from classical computing environments and manage the state of qubits accordingly.

QuantumCTek will use Xiaohong to test the "kilo-qubit" quantum computing measurement and control systems developed in-house. This would "greatly influence the overall performance of quantum computers," Liang Futian, an associate professor at the Center for Excellence in Quantum Information and Quantum Physics, said in the statement.

While the 504-qubit Xiaohong chip is China’s largest quantum chip to date, it’s not the largest in the world. That title currently belongs to Atom Computing, which announced its behemoth 1,125-qubit quantum computer in October 2023. 

Previous notable contributions from China include the Jiuzhang 2.0 and Zuchongzhi 2.1 supercomputers. When China launched its Jiuzhang quantum computer in 2020, it claimed it was the world's fastest — reportedly surpassing Google's Sycamore supercomputer by 10 billion times.

Owen Hughes

Owen Hughes is a freelance writer and editor specializing in data and digital technologies. Previously a senior editor at ZDNET, Owen has been writing about tech for more than a decade, during which time he has covered everything from AI, cybersecurity and supercomputers to programming languages and public sector IT. Owen is particularly interested in the intersection of technology, life and work ­– in his previous roles at ZDNET and TechRepublic, he wrote extensively about business leadership, digital transformation and the evolving dynamics of remote work.