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Fearing lack of combat experience, China’s PLA has prioritized AI weapons systems

Beijing has aggressively pursued AI-enabled weaponry including the Blowfish A2 autonomous drone, which can perform targeted strikes with limited human intervention.
FPI / August 23, 2023


With over 2 million active military members, communist China has the world’s largest fighting force.

China has spent decades building advanced weapon systems for its forces, but a key weakness remains — a lack of war-fighting experience.

With that in mind, communist leaders in Beijing are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fuel their war machine.

China is placing a high priority on military uses for AI and is using the technology to build lethal autonomous weapons, said Gregory C. Allen, an AI expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies who worked on AI for the Pentagon.

Allen, who spent three years at the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, has said China’s ambitious strategy for AI weapons is “moving beyond any sort of on-the-battlefield human supervision into increasingly autonomous AI-enabled warfare.”

In testimony to the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission, Allen quoted Zeng Yi, a senior official at the Chinese state-run NORINCO defense contractor as saying: “In future battlegrounds, there will be no people fighting.”

China’s military views AI as a “leapfrog” technology which will enable the PLA to win against a militarily stronger United States in a conflict, noted security correspondent Bill Gertz in a Washington Times report.

Low-cost, long-range autonomous unmanned submarines are one area.“China believes these systems will be a cheap and effective means of threatening U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups and an alternative path to projecting Chinese power at range,” Allen said.

Rick Fisher, a China specialist and contributing editor, said Beijing’s development of AI for military uses is likely well underway and will be incorporated into advanced combat aircraft, unmanned and manned hypersonic platforms, and PLA unmanned “joint force” warfare that will seek to integrate autonomous air, land, and sea combat systems.

“This constitutes a huge reason for the U.S. to invest in Russia- and China-levels of regional, tactical nuclear weapons to deter their conclusion that regional nuclear superiority plus AI can win wars against America,” Fisher said.

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