After continued artificial intelligence (AI) growth, China may use its expertise to improve its military, according to a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report expected Tuesday. The result: A potential shift in economic and military balances of power between China and the US.

“China is no longer in a position of technological inferiority relative to the United States but rather has become a true peer (competitor) that may have the capability to overtake the United States in AI,” the report said.

China has been the world leader in AI since 2014, when it took the title from the US, according to the MIT Technology Review. Since then, the two nations have dominated the race, with MIT stating that the West shouldn’t be afraid of China’s growth, but rather, should aim to copy it.

SEE: Quick glossary: Artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

This new report isn’t the first time similar claims about China’s power have been made. A 2017 unreleased Pentagon document, viewed by Reuters, said Chinese firms were accessing US AI technology by buying into the US companies. Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that he expects China and the US to be at the same technological level, if accurate, when it comes to AI within five years.

While AI has been a driving force in the tech industry recently, its impact can extend past enterprise use and development to the battlefield. According to public documents made available in the CNAS report, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is working on AI-driven projects alongside the Chinese defense industry.

SEE: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF) (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

The US has also been working on defense-focused uses for AI, including machine learning technology that sorts through military drone footage. However, US policy requires a human role in machine-driven offensive actions–a policy China may not adopt.

“The PLA may leverage AI in unique and perhaps unexpected ways, likely less constrained by the legal and ethical concerns prominent in US thinking,” the report said.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. After leading the AI race since 2014, China may be looking to use the tech to modernize its armed forces, according to an upcoming report from the Center for a New American Security.
  2. The report warned that China may be able to overtake the US in AI, and the Chinese defense industry has been working with their army to develop military uses for AI.
  3. The US has also been working to add AI to its defense capabilities, but requires a human role in offensive actions caused by machines. China may not adopt a similar policy, leading them to greater freedom in terms of AI’s use in the military.