Key Cooperative Research Institute for Policy Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the P.R.C (2022-2024)

Cuihong Cai & Ruoyang Zhang, “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence, Uncertainty, and U.S.-China Strategic Mutual Trust”


Cuihong Cai & Ruoyang Zhang, “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence, Uncertainty, and U.S.-China Strategic Mutual Trust”, in The Palgrave Handbook of Malicious Use of AI and Psychological Security, edited by Evgeny Pashentsev, Palgrave Macmillan, 2023, pp. 377-396.


    With the development and application of AI technologies, the various uncertainties arising from AI technologies and their applications have raised concerns about the malicious use of artificial intelligence (MUAI) and posed a potential threat to international psychological security, especially the strategic mutual trust between the two great powers, China and

the United States.

    The impact of AI competition on U.S.–China strategic trust is reflected in the policy actions and discourse of the United States and China (especially the United States) in recent years. In terms of actions, in recent years, the U.S. government has extended its designation of a “China Threat” to include high- tech fields represented by AI and other technologies, and has continuedto decouple from China and suppress Chinese enterprises in high-tech and critical infrastructure areas. China and the United States have coincidentally raised the importance of AI technology to an unprecedented level and combined it with strategic economic development, political stability, military security, and international influence as the frontier of strategic competition between the two countries. Yet while the United States and China continue to make progress on AI technology, there is a distinct lack of sustained government- to-government dialogue on AI and national security between the two countries, and the deterioration of their relationship has led to a breakdown in direct communication and a decline in strategic mutual trust on a range of issues. According to John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, the lack of communication between the United States and China in the area of AI technology and the concerns about each other’s development of AI weapon systems have made the potential security dilemma between the two countries more serious, and the talk of an “AI arms race” has become more prevalent (Allen, 2020). The United States believes that the Chinese government is attempting to leapfrog its military capabilities through the development of AI, and “China’s investments in AI threaten to erode U.S. military advantage, destabilize the free and open international order, and challenge our values and traditions with respect to human rights and individual liberties”, and that China will ultimately “challenge” U.S. comparative advantage and leadership in AI and globally across the board, posing a serious “threat” to U.S. national security (U.S. Department of Defense, 2019). AI has been directly linked to the “China Threat” in the discourse, which has pushed U.S.–China strategic trust to its lowest point. Driven by pessimistic and stubborn zero-sum thinking, the great power rivalry between the United States and China is on a dangerous slide towards splitting the world into two opposing systems. For this reason, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning about this danger: “the world [is] splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies” (Guterres, 2019).

    The development and use of AI technology is a matter that will affect the future of all humanity. Both China and the United States are leaders in this area, and the relationship between China and the United States has a pivotal impact on the security and development of the world. Studying the risk of MUAI as a potential threat to strategic mutual trust between China and the United States is important for promoting strategic stability between these two powers, advancing the future development and governance of AI technologies, and improving the international security environment.