China is “Intelligentizing” its Military With AI
The Chinese military’s adoption of artificial intelligence systems could change the future of warfare faster than expected, warned the Pentagon last week in its annual report on the CCP’s military capabilities.
“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years,” laments Nicolas Chaillan, a former software chief for the Pentagon who resigned over the slow pace of technological advancement in the US. “It is already over in my opinion…Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal.”
China is outpacing the US for a variety of reasons, including its military-civil fusion efforts, its ability to advance without regard to ethics, and the widespread belief among Americans that China simply cannot surpass the US in terms of technology.
And then there’s China’s access to (and theft of) American resources.
According to research analyst Ryan Fedasiuk, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is “intelligentizing” its military with AI-based systems for transportation, decision support, intelligence analysis, electronic warfare, and cyber operations.
“Perhaps most importantly for US policymakers, our investigation into the PLA’s buying habits shows how Chinese process in military AI is being driven, in part, by access to American technology and capital,” wrote Fedasiuk after his team at Georgetown University spent nearly a year analyzing the PLA’s equipment contracts. “This points to serious shortcomings in the US export control system, which wasn’t built to screen the high volume of technology transfer and capital flows into China, and which struggles to distinguish between military and civilian purchasers.”
Most concerning is the PLA’s purchase of AI tools that come ready-to-use, such as autonomous drones, intelligent vehicles, and AI-enabled surveillance software. A full third of 350+ contracts Fedasiuk’s team analyzed involved autonomous vehicles such as fixed-wing drones and rotorcraft. These intelligent aircraft could easily be used to overwhelm Taiwan’s air defenses in an attack against the island.
Ironically, most of the computer chips that power China’s AI systems were designed by American companies like NVIDIA and Intel and manufactured in Taiwan. And many companies that “supply the Chinese military with AI-based battle management and cybersecurity software are financed by US-based venture capital companies,” adds Fedasiuk.
According to Fedasiuk’s research, less than 8% of companies known to supply the PLA with AI equipment are subject to licensing requirements by the US government. This is something that must change if we are to even the playing field with China.
“Indeed, our research indicates that private companies are the PLA’s main AI equipment suppliers in contrast to the longstanding narrative that China’s defense industry is dominated by bloated, state-owned enterprises.”
Author’s Note: If we do not make serious changes now, it will be too late to stop China from achieving global AI dominance.