China a step closer to microchip independence


Breakthroughs reported in homegrown semiconductor development and advanced EUV lithography machines

By DAVE MAKICHUK

DECEMBER 1, 2020

China has recently made new breakthroughs in its 7nm chip-making process, reportedly developing tools and know-how. Credit: Courtesy, KR-Asia.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself … you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

— General, strategist and philosopher, Sun Tzu

It appears that US attempts to enforce trade restrictions on China over semiconductor chips, has done what many analysts predicted — it has awakened a sleeping giant.

Among others, Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, said during a recent online forum that China intends to build an entire microchip supply chain from end to end.

In other words, it will no longer be dependent on US technologies, according to the country’s latest five-year plan.

And if any nation can do that, you know it is China.

According to a report from China.org.cn and carried by PR Newswire, China has moved a step closer to self-reliance in 7nm chip production.

It has recently made new breakthroughs in its 7nm chip-making process, reportedly developing tools and know-how for several segments of the manufacturing process.

Last month, China’s chip customization solution provider Innosilicon announced that it had taped out and completed testing of a prototype chip based on the FinFET N+1 process of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), PR Newswire reported.

This achievement marks a major step forward in China’s homegrown chip development amid efforts to reduce reliance on foreign equipment and material vendors.

Amid major trade restrictions enforced by the United States, SMIC’s new generation foundry node is said to be comparable to the 7nm process by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry, PR Newswire reported.

As China’s largest chip foundry, SMIC will introduce its N+1 7nm node, marking a significant improvement over its current 14 nm production node, boasting a 20% increase in performance, power consumption reduction of 57%, a reduced logic area of 63%, and SoC (System on a Chip) area reduction of 55%, according to the company.

Moreover, the N+1 foundry node may enable SMIC to break its reliance on advanced Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines produced by Dutch microchip machine maker ASML, according to Liang Mengsong, co-CEO of SMIC. ASML is subject to US export controls as its products contain American technology, PR Newswire reported.

At the same time, China is working hard to develop its own lithography system.

The Suzhou Institute of Nano-tech and Nano-Bionics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Sinano), along with the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, recently announced a breakthrough in a new type of 5nm laser lithography technology.

Experts believe it could lay the foundation for research into a self-developed advanced lithography machine, PR Newswire reported.

The new technology has broken the traditional constraint in laser direct writing (LDW) with its ability to process at the nano level. In addition to ultra-high precision, the technology also demonstrates potential for mass production.

As the world’s largest semiconductor market, China has been spending aggressively in semiconductor investment, acquisition, and talent recruitment to bolster the industry by on-shoring chip manufacturing equal to those of the world’s top foundries.

A report by Goldman Sachs on July 2 predicted that China may be capable of producing 7nm chips by 2023.

Intel, of course, is America’s largest producer of semiconductors, and one of the world’s biggest microchip manufacturers, National Interest reported.

In fact, it’s the only major US-owned producer that still manufactures state-of-the-art logic chips domestically — or at least is still trying to.

This capability matters decisively for US technological competitiveness because these are the products whose current capabilities and vast potential drive the so-called process innovation that enables the entire microelectronics industry to create faster, more powerful products, National Interest reported.

Most of the rest of the semiconductor sector — both in the US and elsewhere in the world — has transitioned to a so-called “fabless” business model, in which companies develop and design semiconductors while letting contract manufactures handle the challenge of building and operating ever more expensive fabrication facilities (or “fabs” for short).

As such, semiconductors continue to play a central role in making information technology hardware and enabling it to use all the software developed for these devices — including the networking gear that houses the Internet and are the keys to creating new generations of state-of-the-art weapons systems, National Interest reported.

It’s easy to understand then why alarm bells have gone off on Wall Street and in the American national security community.

Intel not only announced that it had bungled its effort to mass manufacture a new family of chips, but raised the prospect of exiting semiconductor manufacturing altogether.

As a result, America will become increasingly hard-pressed to use it to handle challenges in artificial intelligence, networking, cybersecurity, and the like that will continue to increasingly dominate military operations, National Interest reported.

Sources: China.org.cn, PR Newswire, The National Interest

Source: Asia Times “China a step closer to microchip independence”

Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


US Policy on Chinese Talent Key to China Winning Tech Race


SCMP says in its article “Tough US immigration policy could be the key to China winning technology race, says top AI investor” that US crackdown on Chinese and Chinese-American reserachers benefits China’s development of technology, especially artificial intelligence.

It quotes Ning Tao, president and partner of Sinovation Ventures, one of China’s leading venture capital businesses with a focus on AI, “While the US is driving talent away, it is the perfect time for us to race to bring them back to China. This talent would be the key asset in fuelling China’s rise in the field.”

In the 1950’s US racial discrimination against Chinese talent drove about 50 top Chinese scientists and engineers back to China, who have helped developed among other things, atomic bombs, missiles and satellite. The US is now repeating its folly again.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3035546/tough-us-immigration-policy-could-be-key-china-winning.


Pentagon points to China, Russia competition in new AI strategy


By Alex Diaz | Fox News February 20

Experts fear US is falling behind China in race for AI dominance

China steps up plans for using artificial intelligence to strengthen its military; Bill Hemmer reports.

The President and the Pentagon are signaling that artificial intelligence (AI) is now a major priority for U.S. national security, and competition from China and Russia may be a key motivator.

President Trump issued an executive order on Feb. 11 titled “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.” It’s a directive that he says “will affect the missions of nearly all executive departments and agencies,” and he didn’t mince words on the significance of this quest.

“Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” the executive order reads.

PENTAGON MAKES MASSIVE NEW AI PUSH FOR TANKS, SHIPS, WEAPONS, DRONES AND NETWORKS

A few days later, the Pentagon followed-up with its own AI manifesto focused on “Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity.” That strategy document offered a similarly urgent assessment of the state of play when it comes to AI, pointing specifically to the fact that other nations are already heavily invested.

“Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes… These investments threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order.”
— Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy Summary

The DoD strategy argues that the advancement of AI technology will “change the character of the future battlefield and the pace of threats we must face,” and that “[o]ther nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes.” Those investments, they say, “threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order.”

Both directives call for increased research and development, and the rapid cultivation of AI workforces, but at this point, there are no mentions of any new funding to support these efforts. That will come in the form of FY 2020 budget request at both the agency and executive levels, which of course will be subject to congressional approval. And with the DoD and outside experts acknowledging that countries like China and Russia have already been pouring resources into their own AI systems, there is some disagreement as to whether these new directives are doing any good.

‘BIG BROTHER’: AI PIONEER FEARS CHINA’S USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR SURVEILLANCE AND CONTROL

Brett Velicovich, a special operations veteran, acknowledged in a recent Fox News op-ed that “[u]nfortunately for America, China’s enormous investment in AI is paying dividends, allowing Beijing to modernize its military capabilities at a dangerously rapid pace.” President Trump’s new directive, he argues, “serves as a direct response to China’s initiative,” and proves “America is now taking the vital quest to develop sophisticated AI capabilities more seriously than ever before.”

For some, the impact of this new focus still remains to be seen. “The EO is fine as far as it goes in signaling the importance of AI research and applications to American interests,” according to Benjamin Boudreaux, a former State Department cyber policy officer who now focuses on issues at the intersection of national security and AI at the RAND Corporation. In an exchange with Fox News, Boudreaux said that while he read the announcements from the Pentagon and the President with great interest, “without any new funding underlying the order, it’s not clear it will itself make much of a difference.”

This isn’t to say that the President’s directive doesn’t come without any tangible benefits. Gregory C. Allen, who specializes in AI and diplomatic issues at the Center for a New American Security, tells Fox “there are important actions that will take effect immediately, such as directing federal agencies to determine what government datasets might be useful to American AI researchers and to begin a process for sharing such data.”

AI WILL DISPLACE 40 PERCENT OF WORLD’S WORKERS AS SOON AS 2035, LEADING EXPERT WARNS

However, Allen has also been able to peer behind the curtain of China’s AI efforts, and it seems clear that their approach to AI is already a few steps ahead.

“China’s diplomats are saying that China fears an AI arms race even as China’s military and defense companies seek to use AI to build a military more advanced than any other in the world.”
— Gregory C. Allen, Center for a New American Security

Allen traveled to China on four separate occasions in 2018 to attend a variety of AI conferences for diplomatic, military and private-sector types and summarized his experience in a report published earlier this month.

“In my interactions with Chinese government officials, they demonstrated remarkably keen understanding of the issues surrounding AI and international security,” Allen said. And in addition to keeping a close watch on AI policy discussions as they unfold in the U.S., Allen says “[i]t is clear that China’s government views AI as a high strategic priority and is devoting the required resources to cultivate AI expertise and strategic thinking among its national security community.”

CREEPY AI GENERATES ENDLESS FAKE FACES

One of the ways China has publicly displayed its AI ambitions is by designating a few major companies as the country’s “AI Champions.” In a conversation with Allen, a representative for one of those “AI Champions” argued that the support they are seeing from the Chinese government came in stark contrast to the race between state-owned and private companies to develop nuclear and rocket technology.

Allen believes that the comparison of AI to nuclear and rocket technologies by a “Champion” of the Chinese government is proof of the “critical role of AI to the future of national security.” And that’s not the only sign of how serious this issue is being treated overseas.

Jack Ma, co-founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, warned ominously at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January that every world war has begun with a “technology revolution.” Alibaba is also among the Chinese government’s official “AI Champions.”

“China’s diplomats are saying that China fears an AI arms race even as China’s military and defense companies seek to use AI to build a military more advanced than any other in the world,” Allen tells Fox.

Boudreaux agrees that America “faces real strategic competition from China and Russia, but… AI should not be viewed as a zero-sum technology but one where there are possibilities for mutual gain.”

“Even if one takes an AI arms race perspective, it is important that the US work with its allies to ensure AI is used safely and responsibly.”
— Benjamin Boudreaux, RAND Corporation

“Even if one takes an AI arms race perspective, it is important that the U.S. work with its allies to ensure AI is used safely and responsibly,” Boudreaux added.

Allen agrees that “China is deeply woven into the global economy,” and that our relationship with them is very different than the Cold War dynamic from our nuclear arms race with Russia. That doesn’t change the reality of what he says is unfolding overseas, he says.

“Despite expressing concern on AI arms races,” Allen argues, “most of China’s leadership sees increased military usage of AI as inevitable and is aggressively pursuing it.”

Source: Fox News “Pentagon points to China, Russia competition in new AI strategy”

Note: This is Fox News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China Developing Superconducting Supercomputer with Huge Funds


SCMP says in its report “Can China build a US$145 million superconducting computer that will change the world?” yesterday that China is investing one billion yuan in building low-energy top-performance superconducting computing systems.

Supercomputers consume huge electricity. It is estimated that conventional supercomputers will need more electricity than the world can generate by 2040.

Superconducting computers reduces the consumption of electricity to one-fortieth and even one-thousandth.

According to the report, China has already made a number of technology breakthroughs and developed new superconducting integrated circuits in labs and tested industrial processes for mass production of the circuits at relatively low costs.

In November last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has set the aim to build a prototype of superconducting supercomputer by 2022 with a budget as much as one bullion yuan.

If successful such superconducting computers will enable Chinese military “to accelerate research and development of new thermonuclear weapons, stealth jets and next-generation submarines with central processing units running at the frequency of 770 gigahertz or higher. By contrast, the existing fastest commercial processor runs at just 5Ghz.”

They will also be able to process big data needed for artificial intelligence applications.

The US has also been developing such technology but with much less funds.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2161390/can-china-build-us145-million-superconducting-computer-will.


Artificial Intelligence and Chinese Power


Beijing’s Push for a Smart Military—and How to Respond

By Elsa B. Kania

The United States’ technological sophistication has long supported its military predominance. In the 1990s, the U.S. military started to hold an uncontested advantage over its adversaries in the technologies of information-age warfare—from stealth and precision weapons to high-tech sensors and command-and-control systems. Those technologies remain critical to its forces today.

For years, China has closely watched the United States’ progress, developing asymmetric tools—including space, cyber, and electronic capabilities—that exploit the U.S. military’s vulnerabilities. Today, however, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing innovations in many of the same emerging technologies that the U.S. military has itself prioritized. Artificial intelligence is chief among these.

In the decades ahead, AI could transform warfare, creating disruptive new capabilities and changing the ways that militaries command, train, and deploy their forces. Those changes will shape the military balance among the world’s great powers.

For now, the United States remains the world’s leader in AI, thanks mostly to the dynamism of its private sector. But China seeks to surpass the United States, and it may be close to doing so. The Chinese leadership has started to prioritize AI at the highest levels. In July, Beijing released the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, articulating an ambitious agenda to “lead the world” in artificial intelligence by 2030. It is backing up that commitment with deep funding for cutting-edge AI research. As China advances in the field, the United States will face the challenge of a new kind of peer competitor.

BRAIN GAMES

By most measures, China is already an AI powerhouse. China produces more AI-related patent applications than any other country except for the United States, and Chinese scholars have already published more papers on AI than their American peers. But the country’s ascendance in AI is not a matter of quantity alone. In 2017, the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence accepted as many papers from Chinese as from American researchers for the first time—a sign of the increasing sophistication of AI research under way in China. And in November, a Chinese facial recognition start-up took first place in a contest hosted by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a U.S. government organization. Thanks to China’s billions of dollars in private and government investment, its access to huge amounts of data, and its efforts to attract and educate top talent, the country is on track to overtake the United States.

So far, China’s big technology firms—notably Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent—have tended to lead the charge in AI. That could have important implications for the PLA, which could use the private sector’s progress for military purposes. For example, the technologies behind self-driving cars could be used for intelligent unmanned military systems, and advances in computer vision and machine learning could improve weapons systems’ abilities to recognize targets.

Chinese military leaders have good reason to draw on the private sector’s advances, since they believe that AI could transform the nature of war. In the PLA’s jargon, AI will set off a shift from “informatized” to “intelligentized” warfare, becoming as central to future conflicts as more rudimentary forms of information technology are to warfare today. Liu Guozhi, a lieutenant general in the PLA and the director of its Science and Technology Commission, has suggested that artificial intelligence will transform militaries’ operational styles, equipment systems, and more. AI could eventually support autonomous robots, including swarms of drones. It could improve war-gaming and simulated training exercises by creating clever artificial adversaries—a major benefit for China’s forces, which largely lack combat experience. And it could elevate commanders’ abilities to make quick decisions on the battlefield. Indeed, the Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, the PLA’s top command organ, has called on the military to use AI to help commanders do just that.

Even as AI mitigates some of the PLA’s systemic problems, it could exacerbate others.

China’s recent advances in swarm intelligence—which involves autonomous cooperative behavior among masses of distributed robots—have been on prominent display in official media. In June 2017, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned defense conglomerate, successfully flight-tested a swarm of 119 drones—a new record. In a conflict, the PLA could use swarms to cheaply target high-value U.S. weapons platforms, such as aircraft carriers.

As AI and robotics become pervasive in warfare, some PLA thinkers even anticipate the arrival of a so-called singularity on the battlefield. At that point, human minds might not be able to keep up with the speed of the decision-making demanded by AI-enabled combat—and so militaries could start to remove people from the battlefield, place them into supervisory roles, and let unmanned systems do most of the fighting. Such an inflection point may seem distant, but militaries are already trending toward more automation. For instance, many air and missile defense platforms, such as the U.S. military’s Patriot system, can automatically track and select their targets. Even now, a number of militaries, including the United States’ and China’s, are starting to use AI to anticipate failures in critical equipment and to analyze intelligence more efficiently. In the foreseeable future, AI will also have applications in cyber-operations, helping militaries discover and then patch or exploit vulnerabilities far faster than a human cyberwarrior could.

Some observers have suggested that authoritarian regimes such as China’s could eventually opt for fully automated approaches to war. That could raise a number of ethical and operational risks: an automated system could, for example, fail to differentiate legitimate military targets from civilian ones. In fact, Chinese military thinkers seem to value the role that humans will play in the machine age. Liu, for instance, has suggested that human minds augmented with artificial intelligence will eventually be more powerful than AI programs on their own. And some aspects of the PLA’s culture—especially its commanders’ interest in preserving centralized control—could encourage officers to keep humans in the loop on important decisions.

ALL TOO HUMAN

Despite its advances in military hardware, the PLA has struggled to recruit and retain highly educated, technologically proficient personnel. PLA officials might see AI as a solution. AI could help to automate some military specialties and functions, replacing or compensating for missing human talent. Along with virtual and augmented reality, AI could improve the realism and sophistication of the PLA’s training programs.

But there’s a catch: even as AI mitigates some of the PLA’s systemic problems, it could exacerbate others. Complex AI systems, for instance, can require highly trained personnel, and it could be difficult for the PLA to assemble such talent. The introduction of AI to support commanders could also create new issues of so-called automation bias, encouraging officers to rely on programs that are prone to error.

The trajectory of China’s advances in AI remains to be seen. But in light of the progress that the PLA has already achieved, the U.S. military should recognize that China is quickly becoming a peer competitor in AI—and adjust its own plans accordingly.

U.S. defense officials should carefully study the PLA’s advances in the field in the context of China’s broader strategic goals. At the same time, Washington should preserve the underlying advantages that will shape its competitiveness in the future. First, the U.S. government should invest far more in long-term research on AI and its applications. The Trump administration’s initial budget proposal called for a ten percent cut to the National Science Foundation’s funding for research on intelligent systems, to a mere $175 million. China, by contrast, will spend billions in the years to come on next-generation AI research. Second, Washington should make sure to preserve its edge in human capital. (The United States is now home to more AI experts than any other country.) That will require doing more to attract the world’s top AI talent to work in the United States and developing the educational programming in high schools and universities needed to create future professionals in the field. And the U.S. government should work to prevent illicit technology transfers by, for example, increasing its oversight of Chinese investments and acquisitions in sensitive sectors of the American economy, including AI and robotics, even as it takes care that it does not generally discourage foreign investment, which can support innovation. The U.S. military must recognize the challenge of China’s emergence as a would-be AI superpower—and prepare for a future in which the United States’ technological advantage is no longer assured.

Source: Foreign Affairs “Artificial Intelligence and Chinese Power”

Note: This is Foreign Affairs’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


$2 billion artificial intelligence park in Beijing


Lucas NiewenhuisJanuary 5, 2018

Xinhua News Agency reported on January 2 that Zhongguancun Development Group would work with authorities to build a $2.1 billion technology park in the Mentougou District in western Beijing. The park, Xinhua says, will “focus on developing areas such as super high-speed big data, cloud computing, biometric identification and deep learning,” and include a 5G mobile network. It is expected to eventually house around 400 companies, after construction is completed “within three to five years,” according to Quartz. Media reports on the tech park invariably note that it is part of a government plan for China to become a “world-leading” player in artificial intelligence by 2030. Two other parts of the plan got media attention this week:
•AI computer chips, which China has “the capital, the talent, a huge consumer market and — crucially — rafts of data,” along with significant state support to excel in developing, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).
•Autonomous cars, which got a designated suburb of Beijing for testing this week, Caixin said. Meanwhile, the National Development and Reform Commission announced that it aimed for half of all new cars to implement AI by 2020, and for 90 percent of big cities and highways to be wired to support the technology, Reuters notes.

Source: SubChina “$2 billion artificial intelligence park in Beijing”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Battlefield Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future Military Power


By Elsa B. Kania November 28, 2017

Preface

By Paul Scharre

Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast heating up as a key area of strategic competition. U.S. leaders have signaled that AI is a major component of the Defense Department’s strategy to reinvigorate American military technological dominance. In October 2016, the U.S. government released a “National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan,” one of three reports on AI issued by the Obama administration. Other nations have similarly taken note of the transformative potential of AI. In July 2017, China released its own national-level AI development plan. In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin observed, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.”

Home to many of the world’s top AI companies, China is poised to be a major player in this unfolding competition. In this in-depth analytic report, CNAS adjunct fellow Elsa Kania explores China’s strategy for developing and implementing AI technology for military applications. Drawing on open-source Chinese-language documents, Ms. Kania explains Chinese strategic thinking on AI and specific military applications that Chinese leaders envision. Her report is a must-read for national security professionals concerned about maintaining U.S. strategic advantage in an era of rapid technological change.

Paul Scharre is a senior fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is a former Army Ranger and Pentagon policy official and author of the forthcoming book Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, to be published in April 2018.

Executive Summary

Although technological advantage has been a key pillar of U.S. military power and national competitiveness, China is starting to catch up in its quest to become a “science and technology superpower” (科技强国). While the U.S. military possessed an early edge in technologies critical to information-age warfare, primacy in artificial intelligence (AI), likely integral in future warfare, could remain contested between the United States and China. Indeed, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing advances in impactful and disruptive military applications of AI. Although this military dimension of China’s rise in AI has remained relatively opaque, the available Chinese-language open-source materials reveal initial trends in PLA thinking and progress.

The Chinese leadership is advancing an “innovation-driven” strategy for civilian and military development, aiming to become the world’s “premier innovation center” in AI by 2030. Certainly, a range of challenges, including serious shortcomings in human capital, may inhibit progress, and China presently continues to lag behind the United States in cutting-edge research and development. However, China’s rapid rise and future trajectory in AI could be enabled by critical systemic and structural advantages, including likely levels of funding and investment, potential human talent resources, and massive amounts of data. AI is a high-level priority within China’s national agenda for military-civil fusion (军民融合), and this strategic approach could enable the PLA to take full advantage of private sector progress in AI to enhance its military capabilities.

Although the PLA’s initial thinking on AI in warfare has been influenced by careful analysis of U.S. military initiatives, its approach could progressively diverge from that of the United States, based on its distinct strategic culture and organizational dynamics. The PLA anticipates that the advent of AI could fundamentally change the character of warfare, resulting in a transformation from today’s“informatized”(信息化) ways of warfare to future“intelligentized”(智能化) warfare, in which AI will be critical to military power. The PLA will likely leverage AI to enhance its future capabilities, including in intelligent and autonomous unmanned systems; AI-enabled data fusion, information processing, and intelligence analysis; war-gaming, simulation, and training; defense, offense, and command in information warfare; and intelligent support to command decision-making. At present, the PLA is funding a wide range of projects involving AI, and the Chinese defense industry and PLA research institutes are pursuing extensive research and development, in some cases partnering with private enterprises.

This could be the start of a major shift in the PLA’s strategic approach, beyond its traditional asymmetric focus on targeting U.S. vulnerabilities to the offset-oriented pursuit of competition to innovate. The PLA is seeking to engage in “leapfrog development” (跨越发展) to achieve a decisive edge in “strategic front-line” (战略前沿) technologies, in which the United States has not realized and may not be able to achieve a decisive advantage. The PLA is unlikely to pursue a linear trajectory or follow the track of U.S. military modernization, but rather could take a different path. Since the 1990s, the PLA has focused on the development of “trump card” (杀手锏) weapons that target vulnerabilities in U.S. battle networks, seeking to develop, in the words of then-Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman Jiang Zemin, those weapons that “the enemy is most fearful of.” This asymmetric thinking will likely persist in the PLA’s approach to AI. For instance, the PLA may seek to use swarms to target and saturate the defenses of U.S. aircraft carriers. However, China is no longer in a position of technological inferiority but rather sees itself as close to catching up with and overtaking the United States in AI. As such, the PLA intends to achieve an advantage through changing paradigms in warfare with military innovation, thus seizing the “commanding heights” (制高点) of future military competition.

As the U.S. and China compete to innovate in AI, the trajectories of their respective advances will impact the future military and strategic balance. The PLA is acutely aware of the criticality of adapting to and capitalizing upon progress in AI, fearing the emergence of a ‘generational gap’ between its capabilities and that of the U.S. military, which is perceived as a powerful adversary (强敌) and thus the key metric for comparison. Since China may possess the potential to equal or surpass the United States in this critical technology, the U.S. military must recognize the PLA’s emergence as a true peer competitor and reevaluate the nature of U.S.-China military and technological competition.

As the PLA attempts to overtake, rather than just catch up with or match, U.S. progress in this domain, it will be vital to understand and take into account the PLA’s evolving approach and advances. In particular, the PLA’s capacity to leverage military applications of AI could prove distinctive due to its model of military-civil fusion, expansive concept of “intelligentization,” and focus on AI-enabled command decision-making. Certain PLA thinkers even anticipate the approach of a “singularity” on the battlefield, at which human cognition can no longer keep pace with the speed of decision-making and tempo of combat in future warfare. While recognizing the importance of human-machine collaboration, and likely concerned with issues of controllability, the PLA could prove less adverse to the prospect of taking humans ‘out of the loop’ to achieve an advantage.

Looking forward, the PLA’s militarization of AI will influence the trajectory of this unfolding military revolution, presenting a unique strategic challenge to the United States. In response, the United States must work to formulate a long-term, whole-of-nation strategy to support critical determinants of national competitiveness in AI. While taking steps to mitigate illicit and problematic technology transfers, the United States should ensure that there is adequate funding for and investments in next-generation research and development, averting the risks of an “innovation deficit.” It is also critical to sustain and build upon the current U.S. competitive advantage in human capital through formulating policies to educate and attract top talent. However, the U.S. military must prepare for a future in which the United States may no longer possess technological predominance, particularly through focusing on the human factors and organizational capacity that are critical determinants of successful defense innovation. As the intensification of military and strategic competition in AI could result in destabilizing arms race dynamics, the United States should also explore options to mitigate the risks to strategic stability that could result from great powers’ pursuit of AI-enabled capabilities to achieve military advantage.

Source: CNAS “Battlefield Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future Military Power”

Note: This is the preface and executive summary of CNAS report that I Reblog here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


U.S. weighs restricting Chinese investment in artificial intelligence


An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, U.S., June 25, 2015. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Handout via REUTERS

By Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON Tue Jun 13, 2017 | 4:21pm EDT

The United States appears poised to heighten scrutiny of Chinese investment in Silicon Valley to better shield sensitive technologies seen as vital to U.S. national security, current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters.

Of particular concern is China’s interest in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have increasingly attracted Chinese capital in recent years. The worry is that cutting-edge technologies developed in the United States could be used by China to bolster its military capabilities and perhaps even push it ahead in strategic industries.

The U.S. government is now looking to strengthen the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the inter-agency committee that reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies on national security grounds.

An unreleased Pentagon report, viewed by Reuters, warns that China is skirting U.S. oversight and gaining access to sensitive technology through transactions that currently don’t trigger CFIUS review. Such deals would include joint ventures, minority stakes and early-stage investments in start-ups.

“We’re examining CFIUS to look at the long-term health and security of the U.S. economy, given China’s predatory practices” in technology, said a Trump administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis weighed into the debate on Tuesday, calling CFIUS “outdated” and telling a Senate hearing: “It needs to be updated to deal with today’s situation.”

CFIUS is headed by the Treasury Department and includes nine permanent members including representatives from the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, State and Energy. The CFIUS panel is so secretive it normally does not comment after it makes a decision on a deal.

Under former President Barack Obama, CFIUS stopped a series of attempted Chinese acquisitions of high-end chip makers.

Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, is now drafting legislation that would give CFIUS far more power to block some technology investments, a Cornyn aide said.

“Artificial intelligence is one of many leading-edge technologies that China seeks and that has potential military applications,” said the Cornyn aide, who declined to be identified.

“These technologies are so new that our export control system has not yet figured out how to cover them, which is part of the reason they are slipping through the gaps in the existing safeguards,” the aide said.

The legislation would require CFIUS to heighten scrutiny of buyers hailing from nations identified as potential threats to national security. CFIUS would maintain the list, the aide said, without specifying who would create it.

Cornyn’s legislation would not single out specific technologies that would be subject to CFIUS scrutiny. But it would provide a mechanism for the Pentagon to lead that identification effort, with input from the U.S. technology sector, the Commerce Department, and the Energy Department, the aide said.

James Lewis, an expert on military technology at the Center for Security and International Studies, said the U.S. government is playing catch-up.

“The Chinese have found a way around our protections, our safeguards, on technology transfer in foreign investment. And they’re using it to pull ahead of us, both economically and militarily,” Lewis said.

“I think that’s a big deal.”

But some industry experts warn that stronger U.S. regulations may not succeed in halting technology transfer and might trigger retaliation by China, with economic repercussions for the United States.

China made the United States the top destination for its foreign direct investment in 2016, with $45.6 billion in completed acquisitions and greenfield investments, according to the Rhodium Group, a research firm. Investment from January to May 2017 totaled $22 billion, which represented a 100 percent increase against the same period last year, it said.

“There will be a significant pushback from the technology industry” if legislation is overly aggressive, Rhodium Group economist Thilo Hanemann said.

AI’S ROLE IN DRONE WARFARE

Concerns about Chinese inroads into advanced technology come as the U.S. military looks to incorporate elements of artificial intelligence and machine learning into its drone program.

Project Maven, as the effort is known, aims to provide some relief to military analysts who are part of the war against Islamic State.

These analysts currently spend long hours staring at big screens reviewing video feeds from drones as part of the hunt for insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is trying to develop algorithms that would sort through the material and alert analysts to important finds, according to Air Force Lieutenant General John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, director for defense intelligence for warfighting support.

“A lot of times these things are flying around(and)… there’s nothing in the scene that’s of interest,” he told Reuters.

Shanahan said his team is currently trying to teach the system to recognize objects such as trucks and buildings, identify people and, eventually, detect changes in patterns of daily life that could signal significant developments.

“We’ll start small, show some wins,” he said.

A Pentagon official said the U.S. government is requesting to spend around $30 million on the effort in 2018.

Similar image recognition technology is being developed commercially by firms in Silicon Valley, which could be adapted by adversaries for military reasons.

Shanahan said he’ not surprised that Chinese firms are making investments there.

“They know what they’re targeting,” he said.

Research firm CB Insights says it has tracked 29 investors from mainland China investing in U.S. artificial intelligence companies since the start of 2012.

The risks extend beyond technology transfer.

“When the Chinese make an investment in an early stage company developing advanced technology, there is an opportunity cost to the U.S. since that company is potentially off-limits for purposes of working with (the Department of Defense),” the report said.

CHINESE INVESTMENT

China has made no secret of its ambition to become a major player in artificial intelligence, including through foreign acquisitions.

Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) launched an AI lab in March with China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission. In just one recent example, Baidu Inc agreed in April to acquire U.S. computer vision firm xPerception, which makes vision perception software and hardware with applications in robotics and virtual reality.

“China is investing massively in this space,” said Peter Singer, an expert on robotic warfare at the New America Foundation.

The draft Pentagon report cautioned that one of the factors hindering U.S. government regulation is that many Chinese investments fall short of outright acquisitions that can trigger a CFIUS review. Export controls were not designed to govern early-stage technology.

It recommended that the Pentagon develop a critical technologies list and restrict Chinese investments on that list. It also proposed enhancing counterintelligence efforts.

The report also signaled the need for measures that fall beyond the scope of the U.S. military. Those include altering immigration policy to allow Chinese graduate students the ability to stay in the United States after completing their studies, instead of taking their know-how back to China.

Venky Ganesan, managing director at Menlo Futures, concurs about the need to keep the best and brightest in the United States.

“The single biggest thing we can do is staple a green card to their diploma so that they stay here and build the technologies here – not go back to their countries and compete against us,” Ganesan said.

(Editing by Marla Dickerson)

Source: Reuters “U.S. weighs restricting Chinese investment in artificial intelligence”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


119 Drones, China’s New Record of Fixed-Wing Drone Grouping


Previously China revealed at Zhuhai Airshow 2016 that it set a record of the grouping of 67 fixed-wing drones. On June 10, Xinhua reported that China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETGC) has succeeded in its test grouping of 119 fixed-wing drones.

It is one more breakthrough in the intellectual grouping of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and indicates China’s leadership in that technology.

The grouping of 119 fixed-wing drones requires the catapulted takeoff of lots of drones within a short interval of time, the concentration of drones in air, division of drones into subgroups for lots of different targets, flying in formation to encircle targets, swarm operation and other maneuvers.

The swarm intelligence in such grouping is regarded as a subversive technology. It has always been regarded by various countries as the core artificial intelligence for unmanned systems. Such grouping enables the formation of large-scale, low-cost and multifunctional drone networks in the sky with automatic control by the collective intelligence of the group. It is very useful in surveillance, reconnaissance and emergency communications.

As the five emerging technologies of artificial intelligence, network information, microelectronics, advanced platform and additive manufacturing develop drastically, there will be the following five characteristics in artificial unmanned grouping: intellectualization of system, maximization of network, minimization of nodes, diversification of platforms and low costs. Such technologies will quicken the progress of serialization of equipment, diversification of application and overall coverage of artificial unmanned grouping.

Source: news.xinhuanet.com “119 Drones, China’s New Record of Fixed-Wing Drone Grouping Test” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China to Invest Heavily on Artificial Intelligence to Surpass US


In its report today titled “The future is here: China sounds a clarion call on AI funding, policies to surpass US”, SCMP says, “The future is here: China sounds a clarion call on AI funding, policies to surpass US… At the annual meeting of China’s parliament this week, the usual Communist Party agenda of economic growth, social welfare, jobs, health care and pension made way for an unusual addition: a clarion call by some of China’s most influential business and technology leaders for the government to set policies to define what they consider the Next Big Thing.

“They include the founder of the largest Chinese internet search engine Baidu, the owner of smartphone maker Xiaomi, and the founder of Geely Automobile, which bought Volvo.”

That proves that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream is shared by China’s big moneys, who want China to be the best in technology.

If China’s rich people form their interest group to affect Chinese politics, Xi will be in great trouble, but lucky for him, most of them want to realize Xi’s dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2077845/future-here-china-sounds-clarion-call-ai-funding-policies-surpass-us.