Competition between U.S. and China in Artificial Intelligence

by Tayyaba Khurshid
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become increasingly crucial in state strategy due to its transformative capabilities and potential to provide a competitive edge in various domains. Major powers worldwide recognize the significance of AI and deploy it extensively in their military strategies.
The importance of AI in state strategy stems from its ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data quickly and accurately, enabling informed decision-making and improved operational efficiency.
AI-powered systems can detect patterns, trends, and anomalies that might go unnoticed by human operators, enhancing situational awareness and enabling faster responses to emerging threats. Additionally, AI can optimize resource allocation, streamline logistics, and improve cyber defense, crucial elements of modern warfare. Role of AI in the Military Strategy of Major Powers Major powers like the United States, China, and Russia have embraced AI in their military strategies. The United States, for instance, has recognized AI as a national security priority and established initiatives like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to accelerate AI adoption across its defense forces. The U.S. military employs AI algorithms for data analysis, predictive maintenance, and autonomous systems, enhancing intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and surveillance capabilities.
China has also prioritized AI as a critical component of its military modernization efforts. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) actively explores AI applications, including autonomous weapon systems, intelligent command and control, and data-driven decision-making.
China’s ambition to become a global AI leader is evident in its investments in research and development and its focus on integrating AI into its military infrastructure. Likewise, Russia has recognized the potential of AI in bolstering its military capabilities. The Russian military has been exploring AI applications in areas such as autonomous drones, cybersecurity, and information warfare. The country’s emphasis on AI-enabled systems aims to enhance its reconnaissance capabilities, optimize logistics, and improve the effectiveness of its missile defense systems. Competition between US and China According to a report, the U.S. will deploy $1.5 bn to compete with China in A.I. The two powers have been working on developing A.I. to have superiority and hegemony over the use of A.I. Regarding the development of A.I. technology, two states, China and the U.S., are competing with each other to gain an edge. U.S. started using and developing A.I. in 1960 and has been efficiently working on A.I. through DARPA. Still, since the last decade, China has surpassed the US AI capacity, and as per Stanford University research, China is taking the lead in A.I. and research and development. A.I. index 2021 data shows that China produced more A.I. research papers in 2020 than the U.S. because China aims to become an A.I. leader worth $150 billion in 2030. Apart from releasing Beijing A.I. Principles, the Chinese government has invested in A.I.-focused technology research parks. The Secretary of Defence of US Austin commits the U.S. to Responsible A.I. He also points out that A.I. will change many things about military operations. The U.S. looks forward to winning the A.I. arms race with China by spending nearly 1.5 billion on A.I. research and development over the next five years. As per Lloyd Austin, China has already been using A.I. for various missions, from surveillance to cyber-attacks and autonomous weapons. And in the A.I. realm, China poses a challenge to the U.S. The U.S. aims to compete with China correctly, and the use of A.I. must be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable. A.I. strategies and development are not limited to just U.S. and China. Still, other states like the U.K., European Union, France, Germany, Japan, and India are also working on A.I. development through National strategies and action plans for Artificial Intelligence. China unveiled its next-generation artificial Intelligence plan in 2017. U.K. finalized an A.I. sector deal in 2018, and Britain’s new defense strategy also puts A.I. front and center; France unveiled its A.I. strategy in 2018  and announced 1.5 billion euros public funding for the advancement of A.I. and recently France announced 1.8 billion Euros public funding to the development of A.I. Israel is a leader in autonomous weapons field The determination and willingness of all significant states identify a global A.I. race, which has impact the strategies states used to adopt before. With the pouring of much money into the A.I. development sector by all states, there are also security concerns that the future might bring autonomous killing robots, which will change the complete outlook of state strategy. As per Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas “An arms race is already underway, we are in the middle of it, and that’s the reality we have to deal with. ”There is also a belief among the major powers that A.I. can make a difference on the battlefield in the future, and that’s why they are frenetically investing in it.
AI has the potential to shape the balance of power and influence in several ways, both in military and non-military domains. In terms of military strategy, both the US and China are actively pursuing AI applications to enhance their capabilities.
AI-powered systems can improve intelligence gathering, autonomous weapon systems, cybersecurity, and command and control functions. As both countries seek to leverage AI for military advantage, an AI arms race is possible, leading to increased competition and potentially escalating tensions. Moreover, AI can also have implications for strategic stability in non-military areas. Economic competition between the US and China is significant, with AI playing a crucial role in the technology, manufacturing, and finance industries. The use of AI in economic domains can lead to disruptions in traditional sectors and potentially impact the balance of economic power between the two nations. Additionally, AI has implications for information warfare and cybersecurity. AI-enabled technologies can be employed to conduct cyber attacks, spread disinformation, or manipulate public opinion. The ability to rapidly process and analyze vast amounts of data can give an advantage in influencing narratives and shaping public perception. The use of AI in these areas can have implications for the stability of the information environment between the US and China. The impact of AI on the strategic stability between the US and China will depend on various factors, including the pace of technological advancements, the adoption of AI in military and non-military domains, and the willingness of both countries to collaborate and establish frameworks for responsible AI use. Conclusion In a nutshell, Artificial Intelligence has changed the strategy of states when dealing with military and economic affairs. Rapidly changing technology will change our armed forces’ need to operate, including how we provide humanitarian support for other countries. 21st-century warfare incorporates the AI-weapon system of autonomous drones, jets, small chip viruses, and malware to compete and combat enemies.
The deployment of AI in military strategy by major powers signifies its critical role in shaping the future of warfare.
However, it raises concerns regarding ethical considerations, transparency, and the risk of unintended consequences. Therefore, as AI evolves, nations must balance harnessing its potential for military advantage while ensuring responsible and ethical use to maintain global stability. To mitigate the potential risks and foster strategic stability, the US and China need to engage in dialogue and establish norms and rules regarding the use of AI. International cooperation in transparency, ethical considerations, and AI development and deployment standards could help build trust and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings or miscalculations.
The Author is Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, working on Comprehensive Security and Strategic Stability. She is also an M.Phil. Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir