William Hannas is Lead Analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). Prior to joining CSET, Bill was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served as an executive expert for advanced technical projects, and was a three-time recipient of the McCone Award for technological innovation. Bill was an Assistant Professor of Chinese at Georgetown, where he taught Chinese and Korean, and concurrently served with the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise, monitoring Asian language publications. He began his career on submarines and as a cryptanalyst of foreign ciphers.

Bill holds a B.A. in Chinese and Russian history from Temple University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago in Chinese, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in East Asian languages and linguistics. Between degrees, Bill studied and taught at Yonsei University in Seoul and National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, and served with the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. Bill is the author of Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma (1997), The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity (2003), primary author of Chinese Industrial Espionage (2013), and co-editor of China’s Quest for Foreign Technology (2021) and Chinese Power and Artificial Intelligence (2023).

In late 2020, China established the Beijing Institute for General Artificial Intelligence, a state-backed institution dedicated to building software that emulates or surpasses human cognition in many or all of its aspects. Open source materials now available provide insight into BIGAI’s goals, scope, organization, methodology, and staffing. The project formalizes a trend evident in Chinese AI development toward broadly capable (general) AI.

China is following a national strategy to lead the world in artificial intelligence by 2030, including by pursuing “general AI” that can act autonomously in novel circumstances. Open-source research identifies 30 Chinese institutions engaged in one or more of this project‘s aspects, including machine learning, brain-inspired AI, and brain-computer interfaces. This report previews a CSET pilot program that will track China’s progress and provide timely alerts.

The transfer of national security relevant technology—to peer competitors especially—is a well-documented problem and must be balanced with the benefits of free exchange. The following propositions covering six facets of the transfer issue reflect CSET’s current recommendations on the matter.

Open source intelligence (OSINT) and science and technology intelligence (STI) are realized differently in the United States and China, China putting greater value on both. In the United States’ understanding, OSINT “enables” classified reporting, while in China it is the intelligence of first resort. This contrast extends to STI which has a lower priority in the U.S. system, whereas China and its top leaders personally lavish great attention on STI and rely on it for national decisions. Establishing a “National S&T Analysis Center” within the U.S. government could help to address these challenges.

China AI-Brain Research

September 2020

Since 2016, China has engaged in a nationwide effort to "merge" AI and neuroscience research as a major part of its next-generation AI development program. This report explores China’s AI-brain program — identifying key players and organizations and recommending the creation of an open source S&T monitoring capability within the U.S. government.

Establishing a new open-source National Science and Technology Analysis Center

China is broadening its deeply rooted technology transfer practices to include artificial intelligence. As these efforts bear fruit, we discuss how the United States can and should respond.