Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges – The Potential Employment of New Technologies in Future PLA NC3
Elsa B. Kania
China and the United States confront shared concerns and distinct challenges as each seeks to pursue new directions in its development and modernization of nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3). The U.S. military must reckon with aging systems that are facing new threats, particularly in space and cyberspace. By contrast, China must not only address similar issues of modernization but also remains in the process of developing and operationalizing new elements of its NC3 apparatus, including the introduction and construction of capabilities for strategic early warning. Possessing less of an extensive architecture of legacy systems—and currently undertaking a transition from a monad to a triad in its nuclear posture—China might undertake distinct approaches to its NC3 relative to other nations. Perhaps, as a result, China may prove more open to leveraging certain emerging technologies, including to compensate for current shortcomings in its military capabilities.
In this essay, Elsa Kania assesses how emerging technologies–including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, fifth-generation telecommunications, and quantum communications–may affect China’s NC3. Kania concludes: “Although certain of these technologies could enhance China’s confidence in its NC3 in ways that may prove stabilizing, there are also reasons for concern that the potential introduction of such complex, untested technologies could also create new risks and exacerbate the threat of miscalculation.”
This paper is accompanied by a Fourth Leg podcast: China, Technology, and the Security Dilemma