How Washington Can Manage Strategic Risks amid Rivalry with Beijing
Two tectonic trends in the international security environment appear to be on a collision course. The first trend is the intensifying geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China). The second trend is the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, including for military applications. This report explores how the United States can manage strategic risks—defined as increased risks of armed conflict or the threat of nuclear war—that could be created or exacerbated by military AI in its relationship with China.
It begins by providing an overview of China’s views on and policies toward AI. Beijing sees AI playing roles in both its civilian economy and the modernization of its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). At home, Chinese leaders want to leverage AI to boost growth and innovation, address economic and social challenges, and secure the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) domestic rule.
AI also plays a key role in China’s military ambitions, especially its goal to become a “world-class military” by midcentury, in part through the “intelligentization” of its forces. Intelligentization relies on integrating AI and other emerging technologies into the joint force with the goal of gaining an edge on the United States. China argues that its governance model, including its military-civil fusion policy, gives Beijing a competitive advantage over Washington. Realization of that vision, however, remains uncertain and will require China to overcome external and internal obstacles.