China’s AI programme is ‘concerning’, FBI chief says

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FBI chief Christopher Wray has expressed concerns about China’s artificial intelligence programme, which he says is “not constrained by the rule of law”.

Mr Wray said he is “deeply concerned” that Beijing could use its advancements in AI to carry out more hacking operations, intellectual property theft, and repression of dissidents in China if left unchecked.

“That’s something we’re deeply concerned about, and I think everyone here should be deeply concerned about,” he said, speaking at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mr Wray was echoing concerns expressed in a report by the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP) in September which warned that the US may lose out to China in the new global technology competition if it did not take action on three fronts – microelectronics, 5G, and AI.

The SCSP report was the result of four board meetings, 26 panel meetings that included over 225 experts, government officials, academic leaders, and many others, and more than 400 engagements.

It warned that the US could lose out in competition to China if it did not take dramatic action “across a broad range of public policy arenas” to invest in US tech advantages, strengthen its industrial base, and deploy disruptive technologies “democratically and responsibly”.

Several US counterintelligence officials had also previously warned in 2021 of the harms of academics and business owners welcoming Chinese investment.

Previous reports have found that US chip companies, including Intel, Nvidia, AMD, and Microsemi have been helping develop advanced processors in China.

This led to the Biden administration taking drastic measures to prohibit the export of semiconductor chips to China.

With China making great strides in these areas over the last few years, the SCSP report warned that the US and its allies were “perilously and unwittingly close to ceding the strategic technology landscape and along with it the capacity to shape the future”.

“The People’s Republic of China is the US’ chief ideological opponent, largest economic competitor, most capable technology peer, and most threatening military rival. Technology is central to all parts of the competition,” SCSP board of advisers member Nadia Schadlow had said in a statment following the report’s release.

“We cannot keep playing catch-up like we have on 5G and microelectronics supply chains. The United States needs to organize, make strategic tech bets, help resource technology sectors and applications, and adapt our national security tools,” SCSP chief Ylli Bajraktari had said.

The report urged the US to maintain technological superiority over Beijing in AI if it wanted to prevent China from establishing global surveillance.

“Technology is evolving rapidly and action must be taken to ensure we don’t lose this competition with China,” SCSP Board of Advisor Michèle Flournoy had said.