Writing in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dr. Saalman looks at how China looks to increase the integration of artificial intelligence and autonomy into its military systems.
Last July, China released its New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (新一代人工智能发展规划) (link in Chinese). It is a document that indicates the vast scale of Beijing’s priorities for and investments in AI. In one example of the AI advances China has already made, its facial recognition and tracking capabilities are driving the nation’s formidable prowess in policing and counterterrorism. Technical writings also document Beijing’s interest in integrating AI and autonomy into the military sphere—but these Chinese sources often lack the sensational revelations that appear in Western accounts. Chinese open-source materials on the nation’s operational military developments rarely, if ever, include provocative terms such as “singularity (奇点) on the battlefield.” And when “singularity” does appear, it more often than not refers to concepts emerging from the United States.
Rather than using flashy catchphrases, the bulk of Chinese technical research plods methodically through ways in which AI and autonomy can improve functionality across a span of largely extant military platforms. This author’s preliminary review of 904 Chinese-language writings reveals a relatively conservative set of enabling capabilities. (These writings were produced by an array of Chinese universities and institutes, including the China Electronics Technology Group, Academy of Armored Forces Engineering, Tactical Weapons Division of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, Department of Information Operations and Command Training of the National Defense University, Naval Aeronautical Engineering Control Institute of Qingdao, Department of National Defense Architecture Planning and Environmental Engineering, Laboratory of Special Fiber Optics and Optical Access Networks, and State Key Laboratory of Integrated Service Networks and Key Technologies, among many others.)