In its 2019 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, the Office of the Secretary of Defense explained that Beijing is exploring the next generation of smart warfare, including:
- Attrition warfare using autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI) drones with swarm intelligence, such as that of ant or termite colonies, schools of fish and flocks of birds, to overwhelm enemy security and response systems.
- Mobile cross-domain warfare using electronic warfare devices and systems for the six operational domains of military organizations: air, land, space, sea, human-cyber and electromagnetic spectrum.
- Space-based engagement through AI targeting, satellite communication and collision avoidance.
- Mind control operations through ISR Surveillance Intelligence and Reconnaissance disaggregated by AI to dominate the enemy’s mind.
Beijing also seeks greater autonomy of unmanned air, surface and submarine vehicles for hybrid manned and unmanned formations, and investigates the direct combination of AI capabilities, human brains through neural interfaces. And it will employ AI to identify, evaluate and rapidly use in parallel multiple, interrelated information wills from massive amounts of data.
The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are investigating swarms of intelligent drones, but not so much the cognitive aspects of intelligent warfare as the Chinese. Koichiro Takagi, a senior member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Training, Evaluation, Research and Development Command, noted that the Chinese military thinks the core operating concept of smart warfare will be to control the will of the enemy, using AI to dominate enemy will, from the chief executive, members of Congress and military commanders, to ordinary citizens.
Beijing plans different uses of AI than Washington and its allies envision, because Chinese techno-totalitarianism seeks ways to employ against the enemy its extensive experience in technologies for social control of the Chinese population. As Takagi explains, Chinese military theorists think that warfare will change radically in the near future because:
“…believe that the development of information technology has reached its limits, and that future wars will occur in the cognitive domain” and “Chinese People’s Liberation Army intends to exploit is a pathway of direct attack against human cognition, using AI and unmanned weapons. The French builders of the Maginot Line could not imagine the assault of German armored forces from the Ardennes Forest (…) to who have been accustomed to almost three decades of information-age warfare since the Gulf War, intelligentized or cognitive warfare seems a strange and unrealistic way of thinking.”
Three 2019 Chinese military reports obtained by the Washington Times in late 2021 revealed that Beijing has for years researched brain control as a key part of smart warfare and has stolen massive amounts of information here, here, here and there and countless other cases and as Takagi points out, for its plans Beijing already accumulates:
“A massive amount of personal information on government officials and ordinary U.S. citizens, ensuring a foundation for influencing people’s cognition. This includes the confidential data of 21.5 million people from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the personal information of 383 million people from a major hotel, and sensitive data on more than 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel. The Chinese government has then allowed Chinese IT giants to process this large amount of data, making it useful for intelligence activities. In this way (…) China has even succeeded in identifying CIA agents operating in foreign countries using such data.”
It is not science fiction and as Takagi warns “The United States and its allies should analyze intelligentized warfare more to avoid surprise attacks in future wars.” A Pentagon technologically lagging behind American technology companies needs to effectively leverage these private capabilities.