When it comes to the U.S. relationship with China, it’s complicated. The Chinese are an important U.S. trade partner, but also an adversary and competitor. Our scientists are monitoring the communist nation’s work on weapons technologies that are both reason to marvel and cause for concern. More on that from Glenn Tiffert, a China policy expert at the Hoover Institution. He says the biggest areas to watch are biotechnology and artificial-intelligence or “AI”-empowered weapons.
Glenn Tiffert, Hoover Institution: So there’s a broad range of AI-enabled weapons technologies. Obviously, the ability to identify targets and track targets autonomously using drone technology would be one application. But there’s also AI tools used for cyber offense. For example, to probe the defenses of an adversary to find weak spots and to be able to penetrate their cyber networks. Then with regard to biotechnology, obviously there are biological weapons that could be designed. But beyond that, too, there are also therapies that could be designed, like vaccines to protect your own troops from diseases that might affect the adversary’s troops.
Sharyl Attkisson: I’ve read something about the Chinese talking about creating genetic weapons or experimenting with weapons that, for example, would target only non-Chinese people. What are we talking about with that?
Glenn Tiffert, Hoover Institution: So, some of these discussions do kind of verge into the realm of sci-fi, but it is absolutely true that China is doing research at the level of genomes to be able to distinguish different populations from one another and to identify markers that are associated with particular populations, whether they track with ethnicities or racial groups, in order to identify vulnerabilities or ways to identify who a person is on the basis of their DNA.