International Security: China's AI Investments


China's AI INvestments

Does the United States face "an escalating AI arms race" with China, as Julian Barnes and Josh Chin suggest? What implications does China's interest in cross-sector engagement for artificial intelligence development have for international security? How has China begun this investment?

With the publication China’s artificial intelligence policy in July 2017, concern surfaced about China’s ability to implement the policy and outpace the United States in artificial intelligence development. Moreover, much of China’s policy and progress shadows that of the United States.

Within China’s “State Council Notice on the Issuance of the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan,” Section 4, “Strengthen military-civilian integration in the AI domain,” is the most relevant to our investigation, due to its policy recommendations specific to enhancing this cross-sector relationship. It recommends that China “Deepen implementation of military-civilian integration development strategy, to promote the formation of an all-element, multi-field, high efficiency AI military-civilian integration pattern.” It discusses a “military-civilian two-way transformation of AI technology.” This statement suggests implementation through the subsequent recommendation to “Guide defense domain AI technology toward civilian applications.” 

The second half of this "two-way transformation" finds itself in the recommendation to “Encourage and advantage people’s scientific research forces to participate in the domain of national defense for major scientific and technological innovation tasks in AI.” It promotes a unified, cross-sector intellectual approach, recommending that China “Establish mechanisms to normalize communication and coordination among scientific research institutes, universities, enterprises and military industry units.” Finally, it recommends fast integration: “Promote all kinds of AI technology to become quickly embedded in the field of national defense innovation.” As part of its "'military-civil fusion,'" initiatives, the Chinese government has partnered with private companies and universities. It has also contracted with Baidu and “Tsinghua University…announced plans to establish a Military-Civil Fusion lab.” 

But how much does this differ from US investments? The United States military has engaged with universities on the development of artificial intelligence. For example, “the research created by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and its academic partner, the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California,” has meant “great strides in the fields of artificial intelligence, simulated graphics,” and others. But the US must maintain this competitive advantage through continued and augmented investment in public-private sector collaboration.