China’s ambitious goal of becoming a “world-class military” by the middle of the century heavily relies on the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in its armed forces. This development has the potential to raise the risk of armed conflict between China and the United States, according to a report.
The report highlights China’s strategic use of “intelligentization,” which involves incorporating AI and other emerging technologies into its military operations. If China successfully harnesses the advancements in military AI across various areas, it could surpass the US and its allies, granting Beijing a significant advantage.
However, there are obstacles that China may encounter in its pursuit of military AI supremacy. Technology controls imposed by the US and its allies could impede China’s ability to develop and utilize AI-enabled systems at scale. Unlike previous stages of military modernization, China now needs to pioneer new military technologies and operational concepts.
The report identifies five pathways through which the application of military AI could jeopardize stability and heighten the risk of armed conflict or nuclear war between the US and China. For instance, AI decision-making applications could provide incorrect information, leading policymakers to make misguided decisions. Additionally, the use of AI in unmanned autonomous systems may increase the likelihood of deliberate, inadvertent, or accidental escalation, particularly in times of crisis.
To address these risks, the report suggests that US policymakers should take decisive measures to counter China’s progress in military AI. It also recommends negotiating risk reduction and confidence-building measures with China specifically related to military AI.
The report emphasizes the need for ongoing monitoring of China’s civilian and military AI activities to better assess and manage strategic risks. Ultimately, mitigating these risks will require a combination of competition and selective engagement with China.