China is now the supercomputer capital of the world

The supercomputer used to be a symbol of American innovation, with the country playing host to the fastest computers in the world and helping break down technological and scientific boundaries with its prowess. Now, though, the ruler has changed and China is now in possession of most of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

In a list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers, China sits pretty with 202 on the list. Comparatively, the US has 143 to its name.

The US still ranks second in the world for supercomputers, but that’s actually the country’s lowest ranking since they began in 1992. Japan clocks in at third and Germany at fourth with 35 and 20 supercomputers respectively. The UK sits at sixth in the world with 15 supercomputers to its name, with the highest-ranking British supercomputer standing at 15th in the world. The British computer is notable in that it’s being run by the UK Meteorological Office so, in typically British fashion, it’s being used to track the weather.

The US’s most powerful supercomputer also comes in at fifth place, behind two computers from China, and one from Switzerland and Japan. China’s most powerful supercomputer has a whopping 93 petaFLOPS.

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For comparison’s sake, the Xbox One X – the most powerful consumer games console available – is capable of an impressive 6 TeraFLOPS. China’s Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer is more than 15,000 times faster than Microsoft’s new console. Sunway TaihuLight is an anomaly, though, as it’s almost three times faster than the second-fastest supercomputer in the world, which is also Chinese.

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China’s gains in the supercomputer space are impressive. Only six months ago China had 160 supercomputers to the US’s 169. The leap up to 202 in such a short space of time is impressive, but there could be other reasons for the drop in US supercomputers in the ranking. Over the past year or so, American tech companies have begun to move onto cracking the science around quantum computers.

Earlier this year, IBM stated its intentions on breaking into quantum computers, and then only back in September it announced it had made a breakthrough. At the moment, these early quantum computers aren’t powerful enough to rival traditional computers, let alone supercomputers. But as IBM and Google work to solving the physics riddle around this field of computing, we could see blazingly fast computers come into existence within the next five years.

But, by that point, who knows where China’s own technological prowess will have taken it.

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