China’s military is actively working on developing artificial intelligence (AI) weapons and technical systems that would enhance the warfighting capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The goal of the Communist Party-led government in Beijing is to make its armed forces the first in the world to deploy AI-powered systems on the battlefield.
The PLA has recently disclosed its work on AI systems similar to ChatGPT in military writings. ChatGPT is an AI system developed by the US company OpenAI, which can generate human-like responses to prompts. Analysts predict that with advanced software and high-speed computing, this technology will eventually be able to produce text, video, and images that mimic human creation.
The PLA is focusing on building AI weapons-related systems in various areas including human-machine ties, rapid decision-making, network warfare, cognitive warfare, wartime logistics, space operations, and military training. The integration of ChatGPT-like programs into unmanned combat systems would enable the rapid collection and assessment of information for planning attacks on enemies. Additionally, work is being done to increase the speed and autonomy of commanders’ war plans and attacks through AI.
China’s development of AI technology and chatbots has caused concerns among US national security officials. The Biden administration has recently restricted the export of advanced computer chips to China, fearing that they could contribute to China’s development of AI-powered weapons.
The use of AI technology is seen as a significant force multiplier for the PLA. However, there are worries within the Chinese military about using self-thinking AI systems in combat, as there are concerns about the lack of control and trust that can be placed in such systems. Cyber warfare is another area of focus for the PLA, and it is believed that AI will be used for coding cyberattacks and generating advanced malware.
China’s military plans to utilize AI technology in cognitive warfare to influence enemy leaders and populations. This could involve using AI chatbot software to mimic senior government officials, generate massive amounts of fake news, pictures, and videos, and ultimately destroy the image of an enemy government to overthrow the regime.
While China’s ambitious use of AI in the military raises concerns, it is also seen as a “leapfrog” technology that could give the PLA an advantage over militarily stronger rivals like the United States. China aims to incorporate AI into various military systems, including advanced combat aircraft, unmanned and manned hypersonic platforms, and integrated autonomous air, land, and sea combat systems.
However, the PLA is cautious about fully deploying AI technology until it can fully trust the systems and ensure they cannot be penetrated or used against them. The Chinese government has also implemented regulations requiring that AI applications support the communist ideology, raising concerns about potential censorship and compromised information.
China’s military development of AI technology will have significant implications for regional and global security, and it underscores the need for the United States to invest in advanced weapons systems and deter China’s pursuit of regional nuclear superiority combined with AI capabilities.