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Artificial Intelligence and Chinese Power

Beijing's Push for a Smart Military—and How to Respond

Chinese soldiers before a military parade in Beijing, September 2015. cnsphoto / REUTERS

The United States’ technological sophistication has long supported its military predominance. In the 1990s, the U.S. military started to hold an uncontested advantage over its adversaries in the technologies of information-age warfare—from stealth and precision weapons to high-tech sensors and command-and-control systems. Those technologies remain critical to its forces today.

For years, China has closely watched the United States’ progress, developing asymmetric tools—including space, cyber, and electronic capabilities—that exploit the U.S. military’s vulnerabilities. Today, however, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing innovations in many of the same emerging technologies that the U.S. military has itself prioritized. Artificial intelligence is chief among these.

In the decades ahead, AI could transform warfare, creating disruptive new capabilities and changing the ways that militaries command, train, and deploy their forces. Those changes will shape the military balance among the world’s great powers.  

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