#Decryption – Artificial intelligence: A data war between the United States and China

On the eleventh of February, 2019, United States decided to put the Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a political priority by starting the « American AI Initiative ». American AI Initiative is a presidential decree which asks the federal government to increase its investments in AI. This decision has been made following China’s increase regarding AI activities.


Photo credit: Getty Images/Chinnawat Ngamsom

As we may already know, artificial intelligence, machine learning and all other modern notions are linked to new technologies. But it can be hard, as citizens, to understand and evaluate the power of these notions in our government since the latter now has new problems cropping regarding the future of politics. In fact, new technologies have changed the way we view and deal with politics. The impact of social media at time of elections is a good example to illustrate this change. On the contrary, the next decades are bound to undergo profound and rapid changes and the power of influence via social medias will probably be a crucial weapon.

Are we going to live in a bipolar world with only two states having the monopoly on AI? Will the world break the last barriers between politics and private industries? Is citizen’s freedom going to jeopardised because of the growing quest for data?

If we take a look at the economic and technological war between the US and China, we can understand how the world of tomorrow will be. The actual war between the two states shows the link between private technological industries and governments. The problem here is that these new technologies are being used by all citizens and by making alliances between private and public groups sharing different concerns might be dangerous when it comes down to citizens’ rights. If we have a look at the current situation, it shows that two states, the US and China are fighting for data through some private companies and both of them have been on a constant fight against each other to the point of prohibiting products like Huawei phones in the US.

This issue is based on John Hertz’s theory [1]about International Relations which explains that states do not trust each other. They hence try to develop their military strength out of their constant fear of one another. If we take into account this theory today, without making anachronism, states are no longer looking to develop their military weapons but they are now more concerned about Artificial Intelligence. We also have to keep in mind that AI could be used for military interests.

Artificial Intelligence works with data that are used to create a lot of possibilities but it depends on what we want AI to do. At the same time, it would also mean that the States and the private industries will have to find more and more data to increase their influence and their power. As mentioned earlier, this will have an impact on the life of citizens. This is a matter of concern and if we go by Hertz’s theory, it means that States are going to look for more and more data if they notice that their competitors are increasing theirs. As a result, this could get dangerous for citizens and call into question their rights as it would result into an endless search for private information and that is why AI has to be controlled by some actors or institutions. 

As a conclusion, our modern society is defined by the influence of the « big states » which are now using private companies as their new soldiers to build a more powerful status. The technological war between the US and China could be the Cold War of the 21st century. The question we may ask ourselves regarding the future of politics is whether states are going to keep control of their alliance with private groups. At the end of the day, AI definitely remains the ultimate product of the neoliberalism system and it might turn out to be the most important tool when it comes down to power for the following years and decades.


Martin Barraud  

Press Team





[1] Political Realism and Political Idealism (1951) John Herz

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