China’s government plans to leverage the growing data industry and cutting-edge technologies as part of its strategy to get an edge on its competitors, according to the Department of Defense’s intelligence chief.
The data industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, set to reach $100 billion by 2020, and China is laser-focused on using it to its advantage when competing with the U.S., according to Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“(I)nformation is how China plans to dominate in the future. That is their strategy,” Ashley said during a keynote address at a conference in Tampa, Florida, on Monday.
“That is their strategy to get behind decision advantage.”
Decision advantage is when intelligence is used to help leaders make informed decisions. Intelligence agencies are looking for ways to leverage computing power and the massive amounts of data produced around the world to help gain an advantage on their adversaries. Speed is key to the process, which is why artificial intelligence and super-fast quantum computers are crucial investments for countries that want an edge.
China acknowledged the role these technologies will play in a military context in a white paper published last month, titled China’s National Defense in the New Era. The paper offers a rare glimpse into China’s military strategy, with technology being touched on at length.
“War is evolving in form towards informationized warfare, and intelligent warfare is on the horizon,” the paper read.
Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things are identified as a key areas that are being increasingly adopted for military use. Technological advancements are a central focus of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal of making China a world leader in artificial intelligence and a world-class military capable of taking on the U.S. by 2035.
Some of these new technologies are already being used within China. The Communist Party is well on its way toward developing a nationwide social credit system, which aims to keep tabs on the actions each of its more than 1.3 billion citizens. Chinese security officials are also using artificial intelligence and big data to control ethnic minorities, specifically Muslim Uighurs in western China who are living in what has been described as a high-tech modern police state. The People’s Liberation Army is applying similar technologies to weapons, increasingly taking the human out.
“Chinese officials generally expect drones and military robotics to feature ever more extensive AI and autonomous capabilities in the future. Chinese weapons manufacturers already are selling armed drones with significant amounts of combat autonomy,” a report by the Center for a New American Security published in February read.
To confront the challenges posed by China, Ashley said it is crucial for the U.S. to be able to solve problems with speed and at scale. He pointed to interoperability across the defense community as a major challenge toward this goal and emphasized the responsibility defense officials have in today’s environment.
“(I)n great power competition, you gotta bring your ‘A’ game on day 1, because if you don’t, you may not get a day 2,” he said.
Chinese officials appear to have similar concerns about falling behind technologically, according to the white paper.
“China’s military security is confronted by risks from technology surprise and growing technological technological generation gap,” the paper read. “Greater efforts have to be invested in military modernization to meet national security demands.”
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