China Could Achieve AI Supremacy in Five Years

Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast heating up as a key area of strategic competition, reports a think-tank-focused on security and defense, The Center for a New American Security. China is no longer a distant second in the AI arms race, but quickly catching up. According to the analysis, the US can expect its current lead to continue for another five years before vanishing.

U.S. leaders have signaled that AI is a major component of the Defense Department’s strategy to reinvigorate American military technological dominance. In October 2016, the U.S. government released a “National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan,” one of three reports on AI issued by the Obama administration. Other nations have similarly taken note of the transformative potential of AI. In July 2017, China released its own national-level AI development plan. In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin observed, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.”

Home to many of the world’s top AI companies, China is poised to be a major player in this unfolding competition. In this in-depth analytic report, CNAS adjunct fellow Elsa Kania explores China’s strategy for developing and implementing AI technology for military applications. Drawing on open-source Chinese-language documents, Ms. Kania explains Chinese strategic thinking on AI and specific military applications that Chinese leaders envision. Her report is a must-read for national security professionals concerned about maintaining U.S. strategic advantage in an era of rapid technological change.