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China could beat US in potential conflict thanks to AI, new report says

Members of a Chinese military honor guard march during a welcome ceremony for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace at the Ministry of Defense in Beijing, China on March 22, 2007. (Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF/Released)
November 18, 2019

China could have a significant advantage in a potential conflict if it develops artificial intelligence (AI) before the United States, a commission established to assess the threat China poses warned in its annual report Nov. 14.

The commission, the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission, warned that China is prioritizing the development of AI and that such technology could help the nation surpass the United States, National Defense Magazine reported.

“Chinese firms and research institutes are advancing uses of AI that could undermine U.S. economic leadership and provide an asymmetrical advantage in warfare,” the report said. “Chinese military strategists see AI as a breakout technology that could enable China to rapidly modernize its military, surpassing overall U.S. capabilities and developing tactics that specifically target U.S. vulnerabilities.”

China has been identified as a great power competitor by the Pentagon’s national defense strategy and the Chinese government has implemented a strategy of fostering leadership in AI, the commission noted in its report.

“Cultivating talent in advanced machine learning and leading in machine learning theory are cornerstones of China’s strategy to dominate in global AI by 2030,” which was unveiled in 2017, according to the study

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The U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission was established under the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act by a bipartisan group to assess potential threats to the United States’ security.

AI will undoubtedly become a weapon of warfare by the Chinese military, should it develop one advanced enough, and will be powered by even faster telecommunications technologies.

Chinese state media, Channel News Asia, reported Nov. 7 that the nation is already developing the sixth generation of telecommunications technology, called 6G, after it introduced 5G, which the rest of the advanced world is currently still developing, in parts of the country.

The U.S. military is working on 5G tests, too, at four military bases, American Military News reported.

The bases were selected “for their ability to provide streamlined access to site spectrum bands, mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, access to key facilities, support for new or improved infrastructure requirements, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation with dynamic spectrum sharing.”

Former Navy SEAL Adm. William McRaven said in September that China’s efforts to expand its military is a “holy shit” moment for the United States and threatens U.S. hegemony.

“As we talk about the rise of China, the gap [between American and Chinese innovation] is narrowing,” McRaven said. “We need to make sure that the American public knows that now is the time to do something.”

China has made efforts to expand its influence on the world through a stronger military presence.

“No force can shake the status of our great motherland, and no force can stop the progress of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Oct. 1.

The U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission also noted China’s efforts are expanding towards dominating space, asking Congress to direct the National Space Council to develop a countermeasure to ensure the United States’ influence in space remains at the top.