Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Hal Brands

China’s Lead in the AI War Won’t Last Forever

Artificial intelligence will be very useful in controlling a police state. But a police state may not be very good at controlling artificial intelligence.

Huawei is watching.

Huawei is watching.

Photographer:  Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Of all the emerging technologies that will change our daily lives, none has more transformative potential than artificial intelligence. And AI — the use of computers to solve problems that would normally require natural, or human, intelligence — will also have a profound effect on the global balance of economic and military power. It will change how societies are governed and people are ruled.

Debates about whether China or the U.S. will dominate the 21st century are thus necessarily debates about who will lead in AI innovation, and whether democratic or authoritarian systems are better suited to that challenge. A new report from the bipartisan National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence contains reason for cautious optimism on that latter question, even as it reminds us that an authoritarian China will be a formidable competitor indeed.