On October 16, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented a report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) containing a key chapter: the use of artificial intelligence in the Chinese military.
According to Xi, quickly updating the PLA (People's Liberation Army) and bringing it to a "world" level would be the country's urgency. His determination would therefore accelerate the integrated development of military forces through mechanization, computerization and the application of "intelligent technologies".
During the previous Congress in 2017, the Chinese president had stated that mechanization and significant progress in computerization would take place by 2020, underlining the enhancement of the "strategic capabilities" of the PLA.
Intelligentization is a Chinese concept for applying machine speed and AI processing power to military planning, operational command, and decision support.
China's Quest for Battlefield Technological Dominance Goes Back to 2015: A China-issued Policy Paper Titled Made in China 2025 and a paper published in 2017 titled Next generation AI development plan they had already underlined the importance given by the Chinese government regarding the development of AI and related technologies.
Thanks to artificial intelligence and its applications in the military, China aims to overtake the United States. Advanced artificial intelligence technologies applied in the military can represent deterrence and superiority in case of conflict.
China aims to achieve military modernization of the armed forces, up to full automation and computerization by 2027; in particular it will focus on C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and intends to be prepared also for symmetrical, asymmetrical and cybernetic space warfare.
Goodbye "human" component?
A number of advanced precision-guided missiles and systems are being put into service unmanned. The Chinese military is working on unmanned vehicles for logistics, the navy on unmanned surface ships and submarines, while the air force on assets unmanned.
The PLA Rocket Force it would be automating remote sensing, target identification and decision support.
The PLA Strategic Force it would ultimately be working to improve the capabilities of AI for electronic, cyber and space warfare, as well as psychological.
The strategic considerations behind the push towards the advancement of technology also include the so-called reunification of Taiwan: Xi was clear on this point.
State subsidies to "private individuals"
Realizing that the merger of the private and public sectors will be necessary for technological leadership in the world, Beijing has "encouraged" (even financially) private sector companies in the development of artificial intelligence and other critical technologies.
All too easy?
Several analysts believe that China is overlooking many vulnerabilities that come from artificial intelligence and placing too much faith in its capabilities. The reality of the Chinese armed forces also shows that only a small part has modern and advanced assets: most of the forces still use obsolete equipment.
China therefore has medium-long term strategic objectives such as competition with the United States, domination of the Indo-Pacific and the submission of the "rebel island" of Taiwan. Xi clearly stated during the 20th party congress that Taiwan is China's business, and it will acquire Taiwan by military means if necessary.
In light of these goals - with an inevitable conflict on the horizon - Beijing is making every possible effort.