China pushing for AI, railgun and technological dominance

The South China Morning Post reports that China’s military has set up a new department modeled on DARPA to develop state-of-the-art weapons such as stealth ­aircraft and electromagnetic ­cannons.

The Scientific Research Steering Committee was set up early this year, according to a documentary aired on state broadcaster CCTV that revealed the new department for the first time.

The committee will fall directly under the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is chaired by President Xi Jinping.

As everyone knows, the internet, global positioning systems, stealth fighters, electromagnetic guns, laser weapons as well as ­other advanced technologies – most are DARPA-related,” the voice-over said. “We should make greater efforts to promote scientific technology in our army if we want to win the competitive ­advantage.”

State media reported that the J-20, China’s first stealth fighter, went into service with the PLA Air Force in March. Also in March, CCTV reported that leading naval engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming was developing a new integrated electrical propulsion system (IEPS) for PLA warships.

Ma said the IEPS was aimed at solving the problem of deploying high-energy radio-frequency (HERF) weapons on ships. HERF weapons use directed energy to damage digital equipment such as computers, and could be used in anti-missile systems. China, the US, Russia and India are developing such weapons.

Last week China’s State Council, or cabinet, announced plans to become the global leader in artificial intelligence technology by 2030.

China has laid out plans to become the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030, with the aim of making the industry worth 1 trillion yuan ($147.7 billion).

The State Council released its three-step roadmap outlining the thinking behind how it expects AI to be developed and deployed in areas from the military to city planning.

The first part of the plan runs up to 2020 and proposes that China makes progress in developing a “new generation” of AI theory and technology. This will be implemented in some devices and basic software. It will also involve the development of standards, policies, and ethics for AI across the world’s second-largest economy.

In the second step of the plan which is up to 2025, China expects to achieve a “major breakthrough” in AI technology and the application of it, which will lead to “industrial upgrading and economic transformation”.

The last step, which will happen between 2025 and 2030 sees China become the world leader in AI, with the industry worth 1 trillion yuan.

Military uses and smart cities

Beijing’s plan hopes to help accelerate the commercialization of AI in China for areas such as smart cities, but also military uses, something that could worry the broader international community.