TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A new report released by the Centre for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University reveals China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is using artificial intelligence to simulate wargames for invasion operations against Taiwan, among other military objectives.
The report, titled “Harnessed Lightning: How the Chinese Military is Adopting Artificial Intelligence,” examines nearly 350 AI-related equipment contracts awarded by the PLA and state-owned defense enterprises last year to track China’s adoption of the technology.
“Specifically, we find the PLA is buying AI systems designed to identify undersea vehicles, wargame Taiwan operations, track US navy ships, and deploy electronic countermeasures, among other tasks,” CSET researcher Ryan Fedasiuk posted on Twitter Thursday (Oct. 28).
He went on to say, “We find that China’s military-civil fusion development strategy is paying real dividends. Of the 273 AI equipment suppliers in our data set, 60 per cent are private companies. The overwhelming majority are quite small, established only in the last 10 years.”
The report’s executive summary says it is crucial U.S. policymakers understand the commercial off-the-shelf AI technologies already available to the Chinese military, citing the threat of a crisis over Taiwan.
China often uses wargaming to make up for its lack of real-world combat experience and to effectively test and optimize combat plans, the report says, citing a PLA commander.
“It is no surprise that the PLA has awarded contracts for proprietary, AI-based war-gaming software for use in professional military education programs. DataExa (渊亭科技), for example, advertises an AI-based war-gaming simulator called “AlphaWar,” inspired by DeepMind’s Starcraft-playing AI system, AlphaStar,” the report reads.
The report also discusses Taiwan in relation to undersea warfare.
A decade ago, the PLA Navy had limited capabilities in terms of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Yet today, it is making significant investments in AI-enabled undersea ISR systems, which have picked up speed since 2017 with the construction of an “Underwater Great Wall” (水下长城) — a grandiose title for its underwater acoustic sensor network.
These new technologies could challenge the U.S. and its allies' submarine forces in a crisis, the report notes.
The findings come at a time of renewed interest in submarine warfare after the announcement of the AUKUS pact in September. The deal, which involves the transfer of nuclear technology and construction of cutting-edge submarines between Australia, the U.K., and the U.S, is being seen as particularly significant for Taiwan’s security and has been analyzed by several prominent think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute.