Measuring national progress in artificial intelligence is not easy. In its final report, the U.S. National Security Commission on AI warned that “assessing the broad national security implications of a dynamic technology like AI at a single point in time is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.” But as tensions mount between the United States and China, U.S. policymakers and defense planners must understand the kinds of AI technology already available to the Chinese military.
In CSET’s new report, “Harnessed Lightning: How the Chinese Military is Adopting Artificial Intelligence,” authors Ryan Fedasiuk, Jennifer Melot, and Ben Murphy discuss China’s key AI defense industry suppliers, highlight gaps in U.S. export control policies, and contextualize the Chinese military’s AI investments within its broader strategy to project power abroad.
Fedasiuk and Lieutenant General (retired) Jack Shanahan, the inaugural Director of the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, analyzed China’s progress and pitfalls in developing AI for military use.
Recording and Discussion
Ryan Fedasiuk is a research analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). His work explores military applications of artificial intelligence, as well as China’s efforts to acquire foreign technology. Prior to joining CSET, Ryan worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Arms Control Association, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, and the Council on Foreign Relations, where he primarily covered aerospace and nuclear issues. His writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, Defense One, the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, and CFR’s Net Politics. Ryan holds a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Russian from American University (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). He is enrolled as an M.A. candidate in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, where he also studies Chinese.
John (Jack) Shanahan, Lieutenant General (retired), United States Air Force, retired in 2020 after a 36-year military career. His final assignment was as the inaugural Director of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). Jack served in a variety of operational and staff positions in various fields including flying, intelligence, policy, and command and control. He commanded at the squadron, group, wing, Agency, and Numbered Air Force levels. As the first Director of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross- Functional Team (Project Maven), Jack established and led DoD’s pathfinder AI fielding program charged with bringing AI capabilities to intelligence collection and analysis.
Jack is currently a graduate student in the Master of International Studies program at North Carolina State University and served as a Special Government Employee supporting the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence; serves on the Board of Advisors for the Common Mission Project; is an advisor to The Changing Character of War Centre (Oxford University); is a member of the CACI Strategic Advisory Group; and serves as an Advisor to the Military Cyber Professionals Association.