China’s AI Military Revolution and its Security Implications

China’s rapid rise as a dominant global force in artificial intelligence (AI) has not only reshaped its economic landscape but has also heralded a transformative era in military capabilities and strategies. Moreover, China has executed a multifaceted strategy to consolidate its leadership in the AI domain, involving substantial investments from both the public and private sectors. Tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent have played vital roles in propelling China’s AI initiatives beyond those of its U.S. counterparts. China’s AI policy emphasizes developing talent pools through educational reforms, encouraging international cooperation via a “going out” plan, and using military-civilian fusion to strategically make use of AI’s dual-purpose capabilities.

Additionally, China has placed a lot of attention on incorporating AI technology into its military activities and these AI technologies include autonomous weapons systems, multi-domain offense, and defense, training and simulation, and organizational reforms, with significant security implications, including the potential for an AI arms race, nuclear stability concerns, and shifts in the military balance. As the world closely monitors China’s AI-powered military advancements, international cooperation, and transparency are important to harness the benefits of AI technology while mitigating risks in an evolving landscape of AI-powered warfare. Conclusively, in this article, the strategic plans, the deployment of China’s artificial intelligence in the field of the military along with the security implications have been called to attention.

The term Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human-like intelligence in computers, allowing them to carry out operations that ordinarily require human intelligence, such as learning, thinking, problem-solving, interpreting natural language, and making independent judgments. Moreover, algorithms, data, and processing power are all used by AI systems to assess and process information, change course when necessary, and continuously improve their performance.

China has orchestrated a multifaceted strategy to solidify its leadership in this transformative technology domain. This strategic undertaking has involved substantial investments from both the public and private sectors, with tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent propelling China’s AI initiatives beyond those of its U.S. counterparts. Key facets of China’s AI approach include fostering talent pools through educational reforms, promoting international collaboration through a “going out” strategy, and strategically leveraging military-civil fusion to harness AI’s dual-purpose capabilities.

One of the cornerstones of China’s AI agenda is the development of a talent-rich ecosystem. To cultivate the requisite expertise, the nation has made substantial investments in AI-focused education, leading to the establishment of AI departments in numerous universities. China has also fostered global connections by recruiting foreign experts and partnering with international educational institutions. This concerted effort ensures a steady influx of talent and knowledge exchange.

Additionally, China’s strategic vision extends beyond its borders, with a “going out” strategy aimed at global expansion. This approach encompasses international mergers and acquisitions, venture capital investments, and the establishment of research and development facilities overseas. Furthermore, China has provided support for its students studying AI-related fields abroad, cementing its presence in the global AI landscape.

Recognizing the dual-purpose nature of AI, China has placed significant emphasis on integrating AI technologies into its military endeavors. Unmanned intelligent combat systems, multi-domain warfare capabilities, and advanced training simulations are among the various military applications of AI. China has been actively pursuing the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into its military capabilities (Smith, 2019). These developments, while enhancing China’s military prowess, raise critical security implications, including concerns about an AI arms race, potential nuclear risks, and their impact on the military balance in the Western Pacific region.

Conclusively, the international world keeps a close eye on China as it continues to push the limits of AI innovation while considering the effects of this technology juggernaut’s rise. This article sheds light on China’s holistic approach to AI development, offering insights into its strategic endeavors and the far-reaching security implications that accompany its integration of AI into military operations. Last but not least, China’s use of AI in military operations is proof of how powerful technology might change the course of geopolitics and international security in the future.


China’s National Agenda and Policies for AI Development

China has implemented a comprehensive set of policies and strategies to advance its position in artificial intelligence (AI) research, development, and application. These policies are the following.

National Campaign for AI Research and Development

China established artificial intelligence (AI) as a national priority in 2015 and has since released several scientific and technology policies to position itself as a leader in the field of AI. Both public and private sectors are actively participating in this AI campaign, with significant financial and policy support from various government levels. Private enterprises, including tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, have invested heavily in AI, surpassing their U.S. counterparts. Initiatives like China’s National Engineering Laboratory of Deep Learning Technology promote public-private partnerships. The Chinese government has established AI research centers that facilitate the dual-use nature of AI technologies, benefiting both civilian and military applications (Gady, 2019).

Talent Pools Development

To develop and attract AI talent, China has concentrated on educational change. Funds have been committed to support AI majors, and numerous universities have established AI departments. Additionally, the state promotes academic conferences and seminars to facilitate the spread of AI knowledge. China actively recruits foreign experts and forms partnerships with foreign universities to bolster its AI research capabilities.

Going-Out Strategy

China promotes a “going out” strategy, which entails international mergers and acquisitions, equity investments, venture capital, and the building of research and development facilities. Large investment consortia play a key role in funding AI start-ups globally, and Chinese companies maintain overseas labs to access foreign markets and talent. Hence, Chinese students studying overseas in fields linked to AI are supported through scholarships and fellowships.

Military-Civil Fusion

China acknowledges the dual-purpose nature of AI and the importance of its military uses. China uses civilian technological advances for military reasons through its national strategy of military-civil fusion. This plan calls for cooperation between research organizations, colleges, businesses, and the military to pool AI resources, the establishment of joint research facilities, and the incorporation of AI-enabled commercial goods into military systems. China’s AI research is closely linked to its military ambitions, as evidenced by the close collaboration between military and civilian AI experts (Zhuang & Huang, 2017).

Structural and Institutional Advantages

China’s structural advantages include a totalistic system that permits centralized management and resource allocation, as well as the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ability to mobilize people. Collaboration between the military, business, and academia is promoted, giving China a competitive advantage. Furthermore, China’s large population provides a vast pool of human resources and data resources, crucial for AI talent recruitment and machine learning, respectively.

China’s Application of AI Technologies to Military Affairs

China is actively harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) technology for military purposes, which has been described as a new military revolution by Chinese strategists. Their military applications of AI encompass various aspects and they are mentioned below.

Autonomous Weapons

One of the most notable manifestations of China’s AI deployment is the development of autonomous weapons systems. These include underwater drones and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), which are used for combat, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks. AI-driven capabilities allow these weapons to operate independently, with complex algorithms making decisions in real-time, minimizing the need for human intervention in combat. In addition, China is heavily investing in developing intelligent unmanned vehicles, platforms, and weapons such as high-altitude endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, stealth reconnaissance UAVs, and large stealth strike drones. They are also exploring the use of unmanned systems in anti-submarine warfare, airborne operations, and amphibious landing missions.”Swarming” technology is being studied for collaborative operations of multiple unmanned systems.

Moreover, China is renovating retired jet fighters with AI-enabled technology to develop an “army of none,” which can operate autonomously and effectively eliminate strategic targets without risking human lives. The three fundamental components of warfare shooting, communication, and movement are strengthened by AI, which also enhances battlefield reconnaissance, surveillance, communication, electronic warfare, combat assessment, and fire direction.

Multi-domain Offense and Defense

China is putting a lot of effort into incorporating AI into a variety of domains, such as nuclear power, cyber warfare, and space. AI is used to improve missile mobility and early-warning systems, as well as offensive and defensive capabilities in the nuclear domain. In the cyber realm, AI is used to detect vulnerabilities in enemy networks and protect friendly systems. The PLA also explores AI’s use in psychological warfare to shape and control individuals’ ideas and emotions. The PLA’s focus on AI and autonomous systems reflects its emphasis on information-centric combat (Sutton, 2018).

Training, Simulation, and Wargaming

Artificial intelligence is being used to improve military training, simulations, and wargaming. The PLA stresses the use of AI in developing realistic training situations due to the limited opportunities for actual combat experience. Computerized wargames are made more realistic by using AI technology, which allows for human-machine conflict in a variety of situations.

Organizational Reform and Doctrine Transformation

The PLA has undergone organizational reforms, including the creation of the Strategic Support Forces (SSF), which use AI-enabled platforms for situational awareness and decision-making, to fully use AI technology. To improve intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and long-range strike capabilities, integrated brigades employ intelligent systems at the battalion level. Moreover, the adaptation of combat doctrine is evolving, with discussions around concepts like “intelligence dominance” and “algorithm-centric warfare.” The PLA seeks to balance the role of humans in warfare with AI capabilities.

Information and Psychological Warfare

China is also utilizing AI as a weapon in the information and psychological warfare fields. This includes deploying cutting-edge algorithms for propaganda and public opinion management and improving soldiers’ cognitive capacities using AI. By fusing brain research, biological technology, and AI, China hopes to achieve “mental/cognitive domination” in future conflicts.

Security Implications of Chinese Military’s Employment of AI

China’s rapid development of AI technology and its integration into military operations have significant security implications, particularly in the Western Pacific region for instance arms race and arms control, strategic stability and nuclear risk, and the impact on the military balance and future warfare.

Arms Race and Arms Control

China’s advancement in AI technology has sparked rivalry in the Western Pacific and raised the possibility of an AI arms race. The use of AI-based military technologies by South Korea and even North Korea is escalating regional tensions. China’s assertiveness in territorial disputes, enabled by AI-enhanced capabilities, has raised concerns among neighboring countries. China’s AI-driven military developments have prompted concerns among neighboring countries and the United States about regional security dynamics (Samuels, 2020). This has led to a security dilemma, as other nations seek to bolster their defenses against China’s potential threat. The proliferation of AI technology, especially for military purposes, poses challenges for arms control efforts in the region, akin to the dual-use dilemma of nuclear cooperation. In this scenario, defining regulated weapons and creating control methods become extremely difficult issues.

Strategic Stability and Nuclear Risk

The concept of nuclear strategic stability revolves around the assurance that nations can safeguard their nuclear deterrence capabilities from potential threats, whether through nuclear, conventional, cyber, or other means. In the context of China’s evolving military capabilities, particularly AI-driven enhancements in multi-domain operations, the impact on strategic stability is complex. China’s historical concerns about its early warning systems’ reliability, potentially leading to missed nuclear threats, are driven partly by fears of countering swift, stealthy U.S. precision strikes. The application of AI in China’s C4ISR and early-warning systems has the potential to mitigate these insecurities, enhancing nuclear retaliatory capabilities and stabilizing the risk of a surprise attack. However, the key destabilizing factors involve China’s perception of U.S. nuclear posture and intent. Beijing is alarmed by U.S. developments such as ballistic missile defense, conventional prompt global strike, and low-yield nuclear weapons, which it views as preemptive and destabilizing. In response, China may employ AI and autonomous technology for tracking and intercepting U.S. platforms, inadvertently leading to escalatory scenarios. While AI-enhanced early warning systems may reduce fears of false negatives, they could amplify U.S. concerns about false positives and accidental nuclear conflicts. The evolving role of AI in this context thus presents a complex interplay of stabilizing and destabilizing factors in nuclear strategic stability.

Military Balance and Future Warfare

AI offers substantial benefits in terms of enhancing battlefield situational awareness, which is essential for China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. AI can mitigate some of the limitations of A2/AD systems, such as the decreasing effectiveness of radar over long distances. Rapid data processing enables the shutdown and concealment of vulnerable sensors, while swarms of intelligent UAVs and UUVs can conduct reconnaissance efficiently. Unmanned intelligent combat systems add another layer of capability. These advancements strengthen China’s A2/AD capabilities, aligning with its goal of regional “command of the commons.” However, AI itself is an enabler rather than a weapon, and its effectiveness depends on data quality, communication infrastructure, and the reliability of AI systems. Challenges include acquiring sensitive war-related data, ensuring ultra-speed communication, and addressing the unreliability of AI systems.



China’s quick rise to prominence as a leader in artificial intelligence has changed not only the country’s economy but also the nature of its military. With an ambitious and multifaceted strategy, China has strategically incorporated AI into its military infrastructure, revolutionizing its capabilities across various domains. From autonomous weapons systems to multi-domain offense and defense, China’s deployment of AI presents both opportunities and challenges on the international stage. The security implications are profound, encompassing the potential for an AI arms race, nuclear stability concerns, and a shifting military balance in the Western Pacific.

The rise of this technological juggernaut is reshaping geopolitics and international security, and as the world closely watches China’s continued integration of AI into military operations, it is clear that nations will need to work together and give careful consideration to how they will navigate the changing landscape of AI-powered warfare. To ensure that AI technology is used for the benefit of humanity while minimizing potential risks associated with its military uses, the international community must engage in meaningful discourse and establish systems for transparency and cooperation.



Amina Iqbal is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. Her areas of interest are security, human rights, peace, conflict studies, and global politics.



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