China’s AI Ambition

A Global Leader or a Threat to National Security?

A large and complex machine steadily expands its capabilities and knowledge.

This machine comprises many parts, some from the U.S., some from Europe, and some from China, but the central control and decision-making of this machine is based in China.

For over two decades, China has been building its own AI empire, and it now stands as a worldwide powerhouse.

It has been snatching up talent from all over the globe and using its vast resources to construct an AI network that is unrivalled in size and complexity.

And it has been doing this behind the scenes, under the radar.

But now, the world is starting to catch on.

The U.S., Europe, and other countries are starting to realise that the Chinese AI machine is not just a harmless toy, it poses a threat to their security and prosperity.

Four factors have contributed to this reassessment:

  • the growing capabilities of AI and its impact on economic competitiveness and national security
  • China’s unethical use of AI for mass surveillance of its citizens,
  • the rise in Chinese capabilities and ambitions in AI, and
  • the policies by which the Chinese state has boosted those capabilities.

They are also starting to see that this machine is getting better and better at what it does, and it’s quickly catching up to the U.S. and Europe in terms of AI capabilities.

This is why the world is beginning to question whether it’s a good idea to keep working with China on AI.

Is it worth the risk?

Is it worth the benefits?

These are the questions that governments, universities, and companies are starting to ask.

This working paper delves into these questions in depth.

It examines the history of China’s AI development and how it has become a global leader.

It also looks at how China has become embedded in international AI networks and how this collaboration is happening through universities, conferences, joint publications, and research labs.

The paper also examines the economic, ethical, and strategic issues that question whether such levels of collaboration on AI can continue.

It also analyses the challenges and disadvantages of disconnecting the channels of collaboration.

The paper concludes with an overview of the challenges and disadvantages of disconnecting the channels of collaboration, and how engagement with China on AI R&D might evolve in the future.

With a focus on the U.S., the paper suggests that engagement with China on AI R&D can continue, but it must be done with increased transparency, oversight, and a clear understanding of the risks and benefits involved.

Read the report “Can democracies cooperate with China on AI research? Rebalancing AI research networks. A report produced by Brookings.

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