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AI Arms Race Update: America Falling Behind Chinese AI?

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American tech companies keep the country well above the rest in terms of automation. What about the military and other government-sponsored industries?

China is proving that they’re dedicated to becoming AI experts. What about Russia and others that compare in influence to the U.S.? Military spending is a great indicator.

Technology is advancing rapidly. We know this. And as it advances, you better believe that a huge chunk of research is being dedicated to military technology.

If technology is advancing, you better believe that militaries are making use of it. #AIArmsRace #whowillwin ?Click To Tweet

That’s not something I lament. Countries should be able to defend themselves, after all. But I find it interesting to keep an ear on the ground for defense research. Often, the commercial market finds excellent uses for things the military made for survival.

To that end, the future of survival on the field of battle looks like it will have a lot to do with AI research according to a new report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The U.S. should take note of the military implications of an AI race with China, according to to the author of the report, Elsa Kania. And if the U.S. needs to pay attention to China’s technological development, then the same goes for Russia.

The three countries have been in a bit of an AI race, after all, and there’s no way that it won’t affect the course of our future. For that matter, there’s little to no chance that it won’t affect the military posturing of either country.

According to Karla Lane over at, “The same technology that makes Facebook so good at tagging you in photos can help government agencies find suspects and spies.”

This begs the question, then, of how China, Russia, or the U.S. plans to win the AI race. To answer that, we should probably start with how the two countries have caught up to the U.S.

The Rising State of Russian and Chinese Tech

AI is quickly becoming a kind of digital skeleton key. It’s easier to talk about what AI can’t be purposed for rather than what it can.

With that kind of flexibility, militaries around the world can find a lot of uses for AI.

In China, aggressive investments in robotics and AI are poised to make them a productive powerhouse in the world.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin has shown that Russia has a commitment to investing in AI research. “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for all humankind,” says Putin. To back those words up, Russia has set a target for making 30 percent of their military equipment automated and/or robotic by 2025.

As you can imagine, something of this magnitude benefits from the large defense spending budgets of world superpowers. One side of the race is set to produce more than ever, and the other is boasting about integrating new tech with their military equipment. This creates a situation where one country cannot reasonably spend less than the other.

In her report, Kania tries to impress the magnitude of China’s advancement. China has become a true peer, technologically, to the United States, according to her. That means that they could overtake the U.S. in AI tech. Such a thing “could alter future economic and military balances of power,” says Kania.

“[The AI race] could alter future economic and military balances of power”

Kania points to the People’s Liberation Army as an example. “The PLA may leverage AI in unique and perhaps unexpected ways, likely less constrained by the legal and ethical concerns prominent in U.S. thinking,” she writes.

But is her implication sound, or just paranoid?

Is Chinese AI Becoming King of the Hill?

As I said earlier, it is no secret that China has been aggressively investing in AI and robotics research.

Kania notes it in her report, but she isn’t alone in acknowledging the issue. According to Alphabet Inc Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, China is set to catch up to the U.S. in terms of AI applications across industry within about five years.

Schmidt may be correct in his estimate. Still, we should also consider the AI advances that China has already given the world. This is compounded by the possibility that Mandarin might be a better language for AI than English.

With government support and a heavy investment in automation, it’s hard not to see the success of Chinese artificial intelligence projects.

We live in a day and age where armed conflict can be ended or avoided with the use of increasingly long-range or unmanned solutions. Those solutions, as you may imagine, require a lot of data and complicated extrapolations. The faster the better. And crunching data on the quick? That’s something that AI are very good at.

Outside of the Military, Who’s Most Prepared?

With the U.S. rolling back automation displacement programs from the previous presidential administration, it’s fair to consider how the U.S. will fair as a job market in the future.

Each country has its own challenges, but some, like Japan, are embracing automation and allowing it to fill the gaps left by a declining population.

The Chinese Association of Automation, for which there is no U.S. or Russian counterpart we can find (feel free to add this in the comments), is constantly looking for ways to improve the capabilities of automated systems. Despite this, China is also enacting more worker-first labor laws including a higher minimum wage and requiring employers to pay workers one month salary if they’ve been laid off.

Even in 2011, there were already signs of China transitioning into a green energy future. Aside from the environmental implications, this new field of research, development, construction, and management open a huge spectrum of jobs that will help to mitigate automation-caused job displacement.

What do you think, though? Is the U.S. going to slip behind in the AI arms race? Let us know in the comments below!

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William is an English teacher, a card carrying nerd, And he may run for president in 2020. #truefact #voteforedgy

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