AI Titans, Entangled?

Monday, October 29, 2018
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As China and the United States enter a “new era,” in which rivalry and confrontation are starting to extend across all dimensions of this bilateral relationship, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a new focus of competition, while also providing opportunities for continued cooperation. Despite and beyond the hype, AI technologies are increasingly recognized as of strategic significance to the future of economic development and military modernization. As such, it is hardly surprising that the United States and China have highly prioritized AI, though taking quite different approaches to policy. In the process, perceptions of and reactivity to each other’s advances and ambitions have been a major driver of and influence on these efforts. For instance, and perhaps ironically in retrospect, the Chinese government’s decision to devote strong state support to AI development was influenced by concerns over the perceived superiority of ‘Western’ AI, as demonstrated by AlphaGo’s mastery of the game of Go in the spring of 2016, along with the apparent progress towards a U.S. national strategy at the time, which has not, in fact, been fully implemented since. Today, U.S. concerns over China’s emergence as an AI powerhouse – and would-be superpower – are inciting calls for an American strategy for AI of similar scope and scale to the New Generation AI Development Plan (新一代人工智能发展规划) that China has since formulated and started to implement.[1] Such concerns over relative progress and the potential strategic disadvantage have powerfully influenced perceptions of the “AI revolution” as it unfolds.    

This tendency towards U.S.-China AI rivalry is not inherently problematic, insofar as competition can act as an impetus to spur advances in technologies that can create significant advantages and opportunities to enhance human and societal well-being. Moreover, competition in this context is not purely bilateral, nor is it the defining feature of this relationship. Thus far, the primary players have been tech companies with global presence and interests, and Chinese and American companies and universities do often engage in extensive partnerships and collaborations. Beyond the United States and China, a range of nations worldwide, from Japan to Russia and the European Union, have launched their own AI policies and strategies.[2] However, at the national level, against the backdrop of a severe – and seemingly worsening – U.S.-China security dilemma, which is exacerbated by mistrust and misperception, there are risks that this tendency towards competition could emphasize the military applications of AI technologies. Indeed, as the U.S. and Chinese militaries seek new opportunities to achieve a disruptive, or perhaps decisive, advantage, there is powerful enthusiasm for the potential of AI in national security and defense.

This paper will explore the impetus, objectives, and indicators of advancement in China’s quest to advance military “intelligentization” (智能化) in comparative perspective, while highlighting likely risks and potential challenges that may impact future strategic stability in this complex and consequential relationship.

Chinese Military Innovation and “Intelligentization”

The U.S. Third Offset Strategy has influenced the prioritization of military innovation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under the leadership of Xi Jinping. In recent history, the PLA has focused on ‘learning without fighting,’ through a close study of U.S. ways of warfare and attempts to draw lessons from other militaries’ experiences, given its lack of own recent combat experience.[3] So too, the PLA has closely tracked the Third Offset since its inception, particularly given the potential implications of this strategy for the future military balance between the U.S. and China.[4] Indeed, U.S. defense leaders decided to undertake the Third Offset strategy in reaction to concerns that great power rivals, namely China and Russia, were starting to emerge as near-peer competitors, including through their development of better battle networks (i.e., command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems), as well as what U.S. military planners have characterized as Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Consequently, the Department of Defense sought new opportunities to regain advantage at the operational level of warfare, drawing upon the legacy of prior “offsets” – including first nuclear weapons and secondly the introduction of stealth, precision strike, and battle networks. At the core of this strategy was a focus on emerging capabilities – including learning systems, human-machine collaboration and combat teaming, and network-enabled and cyber-hardened autonomous weapons.[5] These U.S. concepts and initiatives have intensified China’s own quest to advance military innovation.

Xi Jinping has highlighted the imperative of an “innovation-driven” strategy for China’s development, while calling upon the PLA to advance military innovation.[6] This strategic approach is also motivated by an assessment of trends in the global Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), characterized by advances in long-range, precise, smart, stealthy, and unmanned weapons.[8] The Chinese military’s concentration on innovation – including not only technological advancement but also the formulation of new concepts of operations – must also be recognized as the continuation of a decadal process of modernization, through which the PLA has sought to transform itself from a force that was scarcely mechanized to one that was truly “informatized” (信息化), capable, in the words of Xi Jinping, of “fighting and winning” wars. Indeed, the “China Dream” of “national rejuvenation” includes the objective of a powerful military (强军目标) capable of defending China’s national interests, which are expanding globally in their scope and scale. Presently, the PLA is undertaking historic reforms and reorganization that could increase its capabilities for joint operations, while advancing the development of “new-type forces” and “new concept” weapons.  

Xi Jinping’s call to “Accelerate the development of military intelligentization” (智能化), in his remarks during the 19th Party Congress in November 2017, has placed official imprimatur upon the advancement of AI to enhance military power.[9] This concept, which extends and builds upon the PLA’s prior strategy of “informatization” (信息化), could emerge as a new defining framework for the future trajectory of Chinese military modernization, which has concentrated on the advancement of C4ISR capabilities and is increasingly advancing a range of applications of AI and related technologies. As characterized by a number of Chinese defense academics, this concept does not merely imply a militarization of AI but also involves related advances in theories and training for future operations. In practice, the PLA’s agenda for intelligentization may prove expansive, extending across all concepts in which AI might have military relevance in both enabling and war-fighting capabilities, from logistics to intelligence, military simulations, and command decision-making.[10] The PLA’s traditional emphasis on the development of asymmetric capabilities, often referred to as “assassin’s mace” or “trump card” weapons (杀手锏), will likely influence its approach to these new technologies. For instance, the Chinese military and defense industry have concentrated on the development of swarms of drones and even of ships, recognizing their potential to overwhelm the defenses of an adversary’s valuable weapons platforms.[11] At present, the majority of these capabilities remains primarily aspirational, still at various stages in research, development, and verification. The technologies in question also remain relatively immature, pending future testing and verification. In this regard, the realization of this agenda for military innovation will play out for years to come.

Initial Progress and Challenges

The PLA is actively supporting a range of projects and research activities involving military applications of artificial intelligence and related technologies. Within the PLA, the Central Military Commission (CMC) Science and Technology Commission (S&TC) is taking the lead in advancing military-technological innovation, including through its Frontier Innovation Plan (军委科技委前沿创新计划). Concurrently, the CMC Equipment Development Department (EDD) has created an AI Expert Group (军委装发人工智能专家组) that may guide and direct the advancement of AI-enabled armaments for the PLA. There are a variety of funding mechanisms through which the PLA is supporting dual-use and military research within the defense industry and universities alike. For instance, a fund focused on naval innovation has funded the development of AI-enabled image processing and target recognition technologies for ships, while the EDD has also supported research on the use of machine learning, and specifically deep learning, for the analysis of underwater acoustic data.[12] It is worth noting that research on these and other applications of AI often reflects a history that extends beyond the recent emphasis on and enthusiasm for these technologies, even dating back to the 863 Plan that supported early AI-related research from the early 1980s onward. Gradually, a more robust and diverse innovation ecosystem for such research is emerging across PLA research institutes, the Chinese defense industry, and a growing number of private companies.

In the near future, certain of the promising applications of these technologies may concentrate primarily on enabling capabilities that reflect more ‘qualitative’ augmenting of existing systems, often in ways that may be difficult to discern readily from observable indicators. There has also been apparent progress in research involving the AI-enabled mining and processing of big data from remote sensing satellites, which may already be in use in support of the PLA Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force.[13] Recognizing the criticality of data fusion and intelligence to future operational advantage, PLA researchers are also exploring options to leverage AI technologies to train on and learn from target features that have been acquired by sensors. For instance, the application of machine learning to improve automatic target recognition (ATR), including with the use of convolutional neural networks in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) image target recognition, is recognized as an opportunity to build upon prior research to enhance targeting capabilities.[14] As virtual domains emerge as a focal point of military competition, the PLA’s interest in “cognitive electronic warfare,” influenced in part by concern over U.S. efforts in this context, reflects a recognition of the potential impact of applications of machine learning to enable more adaptive countermeasures to seize dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum.[15] So too, given such threats to communications, Chinese researchers are also focusing on ways in which AI can augment future communications networks to counter the impact of an adversary’s attempted jamming and interference.[16] Given new threats and confrontation in cyberspace, the potential of AI to enhance cyber security, defense, and perhaps also offensive operations also appears to be a major priority for China under the PLA Strategic Support Force, which has integrated and consolidated Chinese capabilities for cyber and information operations.

Anticipating a trend towards future “unmanned” warfare, the PLA is rapidly advancing the development of new capabilities for autonomy across all domains. The PLA Navy is deploying and experimenting with a range of intelligent/autonomous surface vessels and underwater vehicles.[17] Notably, the Haiyi (海翼) or “Sea Wing,” an underwater glider designed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Shenyang Institute for Automation, used so far for scientific missions in the South China Sea, has also been highlighted as having potential military utility, including due to its low acoustic signature.[19]The Haiyi could be leveraged in support of PLAN submarines, particularly to enable the detection of foreign submarines. In addition, the Jinghai (精海), an ‘intelligent’ vessel with the capability to navigate autonomously, appears to be in use with the PLAN and might support maritime sensing and surveillance. As Chinese defense industry players, such as the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, and even private sector contenders, such as Yunzhou-Tech, develop a wide array of models and designs, China has also established the world’s largest facility for the testing of such vessels, including those optimized for combat missions.[21] Reportedly, the PLA is also developing AI-enabled submarines to advance Chinese capabilities in undersea warfare, through a classified military program known as the 912 Project, which was disclosed in English-language reporting.[22] While fully autonomous submarines may remain a long-term objective, the introduction of AI technologies for decision support in this context could prove more feasible in the meantime.[23]

The PLA’s apparent enthusiasm for the disruptive potential of swarming capabilities has been manifest in their signaling through demonstrations featured prominently in official media. Notably, in June 2017, the China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), a leading state-owned defense conglomerate, tested a swarm of 119 fixed-wing UAVs, beating its previous record of 67, which engaged in catapult-assisted takeoffs and demonstrated complex formations.[24] The PLA’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) has also developed and demonstrated swarms. These intelligent unmanned systems could serve as an asymmetric means through which to target high-value U.S. weapons platforms, including fighter jets or aircraft carriers. Of note, China’s Military Museum includes in one exhibit a depiction of a UAV swarm combat system (无人机蜂群作战系统) with swarms used for reconnaissance, jamming, and “swarm assault” (群打击) targeting an aircraft carrier.[25] Chinese official reporting has also highlighted the successful testing of a ‘shark swarm’ of drone vessels, developed by Yunzhou-Tech, that could be acquired by the PLA Navy for future combat scenarios.[26] While swarms today range from dozens to hundreds in size typically, continued advances in commercial technologies, including cheap drones and more advanced techniques for additive manufacturing, could enable the scaling up of such swarming capabilities, perhaps even to include thousands of drones.

Looking forward, the PLA anticipates that the advent of AI in warfare could enhance command decision-making, potentially enabling new opportunities to achieve decision superiority relative to an adversary.[27] In an authoritative commentary, the CMC Joint Staff Department has called for the PLA to accelerate its construction of a joint operations command system through progress toward intelligentized command decision-making that takes advantage of the potential of AI, as well as big data, cloud computing, and other advanced technologies.[28] The Joint Staff Department’s commentary highlighted that the victory of Google’s AlphaGo in the “man-machine war” of Weiqi (Go) demonstrated the tremendous potential of AI in operational command, planning and deductions (e.g., war-gaming and simulations), and more directly supporting decision-making.[29] The introduction of AI to augment a commander’s capabilities is expected to help compensate for human shortcomings and to enable speed and superiority in decision-making.[30] According to prominent PLA thinkers, this introduction of AI into the realm of command decision-making may prove inevitable, and future warfare will involve the combination of intelligentized combat and command platforms.[31] In the foreseeable future, the PLA might leverage AI technologies to enhance the decision-making capabilities of fighter pilots or the commanders of submarines. According to credible reporting, there is a project underway to update the computer systems on PLAN nuclear submarines with an AI decision-support system in order reduce commanding officers’ workload and mental burden.

Through these efforts, AI may take on certain “thinking” functions on nuclear submarines, which could include, at a basic level, interpreting and answering signals picked up by sonar, through the use of convolutional neural networks.

Pursuant to national strategy of military-civil fusion (or civil-military integration, 军民融合), China seeks to create and leverage critical synergies among academic, defense, and commercial developments in AI technologies. Increasingly, a range of incentives and partnerships have been introduced to advance this strategy, influenced not only by a long history in China’s thinking on mobilizing resources for technological development but also by a close study of the successes of American defense innovation. While this agenda is increasingly expansive in scope and scale, a key metric of success will be China’s capability to mobilize leading companies and universities in support of this agenda, taking advantage of their capabilities to promote dual-use technological developments. For instance, as of January 2018, Baidu and CETC’s 28th Research Institute established the Joint Laboratory for Intelligent Command and Control Technologies (智能指挥控制技术联合实验室), which will focus on increasing the level of ‘intelligentization’ in command information systems through incorporating big data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing.[34] Notably, Tsinghua University, often characterized as ‘China’s MIT,’ is strongly and institutionally committed to military-civil fusion and to supporting the advancement of Chinese military applications of AI. Tsinghua Vice President You Zheng has highlighted research underway on project on future human-machine cooperative (combat) operations.[35] Tsinghua is also building the “High-End Laboratory for Military Intelligence” with support from the PLA’s Central Military Commission, along with the Military-Civil Fusion National Defense Peak Technologies Laboratory, which will create a platform for the pursuit of dual-use applications of emerging technologies, especially AI.

New Risks and Threats

Are the United States and China engaged in an “AI arms race” at present? It is clear that the U.S. and Chinese militaries share an enthusiasm for and commitment to the military applications of these technologies. At first glance, however, the notion of an “arms race” in AI is inadequate as a concept at best, in light of the complexity of these technologies and the multiplicity of their applications. However, it is clear that multiple militaries around the world – unsurprisingly, the United States and China among them – anticipate that today’s advances in AI could prove transformative, even revolutionary. Although attempts to predict and anticipate the future of warfare are imperfect at best, there is consensus that artificial intelligence and autonomy will have a wide range of impactful applications that could, in the aggregate, constitute a new “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA), potentially in conjunction with other emerging technologies, ranging from hypersonics to directed energy weapons. If that does indeed prove to be the case, then whichever military first masters these technologies – and the powerful convergences among them – could pioneer a new generation of warfare. In this regard, concerns over an “arms race” in AI cannot be disentangled from the broader dynamics of intense military rivalry among great powers.

Indeed, rapid advances in AI could disrupt and destabilize the existing military balance, though not necessarily for the reasons that have captured the popular imagination. There seems to be less danger that “killer robots” or “superintelligence” could be created as a result of such competition and more reasons for concern that advances in AI could present new risks to strategic stability in conjunction with parallel technological developments. If military competition continues unmitigated and unabating, there are reasons for concern that a “new round of arms racing” could indeed emerge.[38] Chinese defense academics and strategists, including Professor Zhu Qichao of the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), have also highlighted the risks that the advent of AI in warfare might present, including new threats to strategic stability.[39] Indeed, AI is recognized as a “double-edged sword” that could introduce new risks to national security, military security, and societal security, as a recent Chinese white paper on AI safety highlighted.[40] The PLA’s pursuit of AI-enabled capabilities may also create new operational risks, which could include inevitable failure in complex systems, adversary attempts to attack or otherwise undermine autonomous systems (e.g., spoofing and behavioral hacking), or unanticipated interactions between adversarial systems.[41] For instance, the PLA is also likely to look to AI to enhance its offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, including under the aegis of its new Strategic Support Force. The trend towards integrating AI with cyber capabilities to achieve an advantage could exacerbate escalatory dynamics in this contested domain, particularly if such capabilities start to proliferate.

Despite fears that AI is “summoning the demon,” the present limitations of AI, rather than its potential power or questions of controllability, could become more problematic in the near term for the U.S. and China alike. In some cases, errors and issues might arise from seemingly routine applications, even when the algorithm in question is not used directly in a weapons system or to make a life-and-death decision. Even military applications of AI in intelligence and to augment command decision-making could cause errors that might contribute to crisis instability or exacerbate the risks of escalation through creating new avenues for misperception or miscalculation in leadership decision-making. At this stage of development, AI remains far from intelligent, tending to make mistakes no human would make. Such errors can be unpredictable or difficult to mitigate. In certain cases, the results can be amusing or nonsensical, as in the case of adversarial examples. In a military context, however, there could be adverse consequences, with higher likelihood of errors or unexpected emergent behavior as the level of complexity increases and if a situation exceeds the expected parameters of an algorithm. Consequently, major militaries should take a proactive approach to evaluating and mitigating the potential risks introduced by advances in military applications of AI. It is and will remain in their interest to do so, as the United States, China and Russia still share at least a basic commitment to strategic stability and recognize the undesirability of inadvertent escalation.

Going forward, the United States and China must also recognize new threats resulting from the likely proliferation of AI-enabled capabilities. Thus far, development has been driven primarily by commercial technologies, and the companies at the forefront of the field have taken a very open approach to releasing their results, including open-sourcing a number of the key tools and infrastructure. Given that the barriers to entry in this field will decrease as a result, there will be more opportunities for non-state actors, including criminals and perhaps even terrorist organizations, to explore options to leverage these technologies for malicious purposes.[42] This trend may converge with the cheapness and availability of commercial drones, which will only increase with advances in additive manufacturing. Even terrorist organizations, notably ISIS, are starting to employ drones for battlefield reconnaissance and to convey explosives, and the successes of Chinese company DJI has only rendered these capabilities more and more readily accessible.[44] Concurrently, while AI technologies become ever more pervasive in our societies and economies, new threat vectors may arise, from the potential weaponization of self-driving cars to the manipulation of ‘smart’ devices. While “AI superpowers” may reap the greatest benefits from advances in these technologies, it is undeniable that many players and potential malicious actors will have the capacity to exploit them. As U.S. and Chinese policymakers turn their attention to questions of AI safety and security, the shared nature of these threats should be an impetus to explore opportunities for cooperation on risk mitigation. 


Elsa Kania is an adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security’s Technology and National Security Program and a PhD candidate at Harvard University.

[1]1 “State Council Notice on the Issuance of the New Generation AI Development Plan” [国务院关于印发新一代人工智能发展规划的通知], State Council, July 20, 2017,

[2]2 For a quick overview of various policies and strategies around the world, see, for instance: Tim Dutton, “Artificial Intelligence Strategies,”

[3]3 For an earlier assessment of this tendency, see: Andrew Scobell, David Lai, and Roy Kamphausen, Chinese Lessons From Other People’s Wars, Strategic Studies Institute Book, November 2011,

[4]4 For one of a number of articles on the topic, see: Wang Peng [王鹏], Shao Dan [邵丹], “Whom the New U.S. “Offset Strategy” Seeks to Offset” [美国新“抵消战略”欲抵消谁], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], January 15, 2016,

5 For authoritative discussion of and commentary upon these issues, see Bob Work’s remarks upon several occasions: Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech, “The Third U.S. Offset Strategy and its Implications for Partners and Allies,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., January 28, 2015, Cheryl Pellerin, “Work: Human-Machine Teaming Represents Defense Technology Future,” DoD News, November 8, 2015,

6 See the official strategy released on innovation-driven development, “The CCP Central Commission and State Council Release the “National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline” [中共中央 国务院印发《国家创新驱动发展战略纲要], Xinhua, May 19, 2016, See also Xi Jinping’s remarks on this approach in the context of military modernization: “Xi Jinping: Comprehensively Advance an Innovation-Driven Development Strategy, Promote New Leaps in National Defense and Military Construction” [习近平:全面实施创新驱动发展战略 推动国防和军队建设实现新跨越], Xinhua, March 13, 2016,

7 For an early and reasonably authoritative discussion of these trends, see: Xiao Tianliang [肖天亮], “Seize the Reform Initiative in the Tide of Military Transformation” [顺应军事变革潮流把握改革主动], PLA Daily, January 5, 2016,

8 “Xi Jinping: Accurately Grasp the New Trend in Global Military Developments and Keep Pace with the Times, Strongly Advancing Military Innovation” [习近平:准确把握世界军事发展新趋势 与时俱进大力推进军事创新], Xinhua, August 30, 2014,  Academy of Military Science Military Strategy Research Department [军事科学院军事战略研究部], eds., The Science of Military Strategy [战略学], Military Science Press [军事科学出版社], 2013, 97-98.

9 “Xi Jinping’s Report at the Chinese Communist Party 19th National Congress” [习近平在中国共产党第十九次全国代表大会上的报告], Xinhua, October 27, 2017,

10 Military Science Editorial Department [中国军事科学 编辑部], “A Summary of the Workshop on the Game between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol and the Intelligentization of Military Command and Decision-Making” [围棋人机大战与军事指挥决策智能化研讨会观点综述], China Military Science [中国军事科学], April 2, 2016. CMC Joint Staff Department [中央军委联合参谋部], “Accelerate the Construction of a Joint Operations Command System with Our Nation’s Characteristics—Thoroughly Study Chairman Xi’s Important Sayings When Inspecting the CMC Joint Operations Command Center [加快构建具有我军特色的联合作战指挥体系—— 深入学习贯彻习主席视察军委联指中心时的重要讲话], Seeking Truth, August 15, 2016,

11 For an account of China’s first world record in swarming, see: “Our Country Breaks World Records for the Number of Fixed-Wing UAVs Swarm Flying” [我国打破世界固定翼无人机集群飞行飞机数量纪录], China Military Online, November 6, 2016,

12 The sources in question are available upon request.

13 “Remote Sensing Big Data Intelligent Processing and Mining Theories, Methodologies, and Major Applications” [遥感大数据智能处理与挖掘理论方法及重大应用] from the 2018 National Science and Technology Progress Award Nomination Content [2018年度国家科学技术进步奖提名公示内容]

14 For one of a number of publications on these topics, see: Tian Zhuangzhuang, Zhan Ronghui, Hu Jiemin, et al.. SAR ATR based on convolutional neural network[J]. Journal of Radars, 2016, 5(3): 320–325. DOI: 10.12000/JR16037. See also “2017 Target Recognition and Artificial Intelligence Forum” [2017目标识别与人工智能高峰论坛], April 22, 2017,

15 “Academician Wang Shafei: AI and Electromagnetic Spectrum Warfare” [王沙飞院士:人工智能与电磁频谱战], February 22, 2018,

16 “Anti-Jamming Academic Forum: Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Future Communication Networks & Machine Learning in Communications and Reconnaissance” [抗干扰学术论坛:人工智能与未来通信网络&机器学习在通信和侦察中的应用], November 9, 2017,

17 For another analysis of the capabilities under development, see: Lyle J. Goldstein, “Meet the HN-1, China's New AI-Powered Underwater Drone,”The National Interest, July 15, 2018,

18 “Sea Wing Series of Underwater Gliders Achieves the Largest Model of Swarms Simultaneously Observing” [“海翼”系列水下滑翔机实现最大规模集群同步观测], Shenyang Institute of Automation, August 24, 2017,

19 See “Ordinance Industry Science and Technology, 2017, Issue 19” [《兵工科技》2016年第19期杂志], September 22, 2016,

20 Kelvin Wong, “IMDEX 2017: China's Yunzhou-Tech showcases latest USVs,” IHS Jane's International Defence Review, May 18, 2017,

21 For instance, see this recent model: “AAD 2018: China's CSOC Unveils 'JARI' Unmanned Surface Combatant – USV,” September 23, 2018,

22 Stephen Chen, “China military develops robotic submarines to launch a new era of sea power,” South China Morning Post, July 22, 2018,

23 See my prior analysis on the topic: Elsa Kania, “Chinese Sub Commanders May Get AI Help for Decision-Making,” Defense One, February 12, 2018,

24 “China launches record-breaking drone swarm,” Xinhua, June 11, 2017,

25 I observed this display during my August 2017 visit to the Military Museum in Beijing.

26 Again, the reporting upon these advances in English is significant, indicating that their success is intended to be known to foreign audiences. See: “Unmanned ‘shark swarm’ to be used in sea battles, military patrols,” Global Times, June 6, 2018,

27 Military Science Editorial Department [中国军事科学 编辑部], “A Summary of the Workshop on the Game between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol and the Intelligentization of Military Command and Decision-Making” [围棋人机大战与军事指挥决策智能化研讨会观点综述], China Military Science [中国军事科学], April 2, 2016.

28 CMC Joint Staff Department [中央军委联合参谋部], “Accelerate the Construction of a Joint Operations Command System with Our Nation’s Characteristics—Thoroughly Study Chairman Xi’s Important Sayings When Inspecting the CMC Joint Operations Command Center [加快构建具有我军特色的联合作战指挥体系—— 深入学习贯彻习主席视察军委联指中心时的重要讲话], Seeking Truth, August 15, 2016,

29 Ibid.

30 Chen Yufei [陈玉飞] and Zhou Tao [周涛], “Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Commanders?” [人工智能能代替指挥员吗?], PLA Daily, June 8, 2017,

31 Guo Ruobing [郭若冰], Si Guangya [司光亚],  “Facing New Challenges to Military Command in the Era of Intelligentization” [接近智能化时代军事指挥面临的挑战], China Military Science, July 2016.

32 Elsa Kania, “Chinese Sub Commanders May Get AI Help for Decision-Making,” Defense One, February 12, 2018,

33 Stephen Chen, “China’s plan to use artificial intelligence to boost the thinking skills of nuclear submarine commanders,” South China Morning Post, February 4, 2018,

34 “China Electronics Science and Technology Group and Baidu Company established the “Joint Laboratory for Intelligent Command and Control Technology” to promote military-civil fusion in the field of new technologies” [中国电科28所与百度公司成立“智能指挥控制技术联合实验室”推动军民融合向新技术领域纵深迈进], January 23, 2018,

35 “The Ministry of Education Convened a Press Conference to Interpret the “Artificial Intelligence Innovation Action Plan for Colleges and Universities,” etc. [教育部举行新闻发布会解读《高等学校人工智能创新行动计划》等], Ministry of Education Website, June 8, 2018,

36 Ibid.

37 ‘Tsinghua Starts to Establish the Military–Civil Fusion National Defense Peak Technologies Laboratory’ [清华启动筹建军民融合国防尖端技术实验室], China Education Report, 26 June 2017,

38 China Institute of Information and Communications (CAICT), “AI Security White Paper” [人工智能安全白皮书], September 2018,

39 Zhu Qichao [朱启超], “AI Intervenes in Military Affairs or Assaults Humanity’s Ethical Bottom Line,” [人工智能介入军事或冲击人类道德底线], June 23, 2017,

40 China Institute of Information and Communications (CAICT), “AI Security White Paper” [人工智能安全白皮书], September 2018,

41 For an insightful discussion of these dynamics: Paul Scharre, “Autonomous Weapons and Operational Risk,” Center for a New American Security, February 2016,

42 For an early and authoritative assessment, see: “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation,”

43 Ben Watson, “The Drones of ISIS,” Defense One, January 12, 2017,

44 See: “Isis use of hobby drones as weapons tests Chinese makers,” Financial Times, December 10, 2017,