China is looking to the future as it embarks on a mission to develop cutting-edge technologies in order to become the new military tech superpower.
China aspires to surpass the U.S. in artificial intelligence, seeking to take advantage of the unique opportunities that this critical emerging technology could confer to its economic competitiveness and military capabilities.
To date, the scale of Chinese research in artificial intelligence, as reflected by the number of papers published and cited, has already exceeded that of the U.S., and China also ranks second in AI patent applications.
From speech recognition to computer vision, Chinese efforts in artificial intelligence are cutting-edge and evidently constitute a priority for China’s leadership at the highest levels. Within the past year alone, China has released a series of national science and technology plans that seek to advance artificial intelligence and established a national deep learning lab.
In particular, China’s new national mega-project for artificial intelligence, known as “Artificial Intelligence 2.0,” will advance and direct an ambitious agenda for research and development, including economic and national security applications.
China has selected 120 top specialists to work in a leading research institute to push the development of artificial intelligence and quantum technologies for military applications, the South China Morning Post reports, citing state media.
It’s been reported that the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) has attracted experts to work in the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, with more than 95 percent of researchers having PhD degrees in certain fields, specializing particularly in quantum technology and artificial intelligence.
The publication notes that such a measure is being undertaken as Beijing intents to become a military-technical superpower and to catch up with the US armed forces.
“President Xi Jinping has launched a massive overhaul and modernization of the country’s military and he said in a speech given to the military science academy last July that China should aim at building world-class military technology institutes,” the South China Morning Post reported.
Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) get ready for the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017
Collin Koh, a military expert told the publication, that China’s aim to enter into these military tech fields is also due to its military strategy which looks at “nullifying via asymmetrical means the general US military superiority in envisaged regional flashpoints such as the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
A group led by Pan Jianwei at the University of Science and Technology of China, is one of the teams spearheading China’s research into quantum technology.
According to the analyst, China could gain a military advantage if it can learn to apply breakthroughs in quantum technology.
Quantum technologies permit the development of modern equipment and arms ranging from new satellites that can track military aircraft to cracking encrypted enemy codes.
“Quantum technology could be game changing and the successful integration of quantum technology with China’s regular military forces could profoundly change the regional security balance, which is already moving towards Beijing’s favor,” Ben Ho, a researcher at the military studies program at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told the South China Morning Post.
According to Lieutenant General Liu Guozhi, director of the Central Military Commission’s Science and Technology Commission, the world is “on the eve of a new scientific and technological revolution.”
He believes that we are “entering the era of intelligentization” due to rapid advances in artificial intelligence and its applications.
Liu Guozhi anticipates artificial intelligence will accelerate the process of military transformation, causing fundamental changes to military units’ programming, operational styles, equipment systems, and models of combat power generation, ultimately leading to a profound military revolution (军事革命).
Liu Guozhi warns, “Whoever doesn’t disrupt will be disrupted!”
The PLA presently has a unique opportunity to take advantage of today’s transformation of warfare through artificial intelligence and automation through leveraging the dynamism of Chinese private sector advances in AI.
For the PLA, the coming of intelligentized warfare constitutes a stage beyond informatization that will require deeper changes in its approach to force development and modernization.
According to Major General Wang Kebin, director of the former General Staff Department Informatization Department, China’s “information revolution” has been progressing through three stages: first “digitalization” (数字化), then “networkization” (网络化), and now “intelligentization” (智能化).
In its agenda for informatization, the PLA has sought to integrate information technology into the PLA and to improve its ability to utilize information in warfare.
To date, the PLA has succeeded in the introduction of information technology into platforms and systems; progressed gradually towards integration, especially of its command, control communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; and seeks to advance towards deeper fusion of systems and sensors across all services, theater commands, and domains of warfare.
In this final stage, intelligentization would enhance the PLA’s capability to process and utilize information at scale and at machine speed.
For instance, in the immediate future, the PLA could employ artificial intelligence and automation to enhance its ability to rapidly process information to support intelligence.