Beijing: China has recently used artificial intelligence (AI) to stimulate its island-building activities in South China, a move that, if and when it happens, might aid to support its maritime claims in the fiercely contested maritime region, reported Asia News.

According to a report in South China Morning Post (SCMP), as cited by Asia News, this month a team from the Tianjin campus of the Civil Aviation University of China's Transportation Science and Engineering College conducted an AI simulation of the development and operation of a logistics network in the South China Sea, which they claim will increase China's economic activity and territorial claims in the disputed sea.

The simulation states that this logistical network may span 17 to 80 features in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, according to the SCMP report that was published last month in the peer-reviewed Chinese journal Operations Research and Management Science.

Additionally, the researchers stated that "it has become a top priority to build a logistics network that can operate successfully and coordinate various modes of transport," and "the construction of these transport facilities has laid very favourable basic conditions for the construction of a logistics network in the South China Sea," according to the SCMP report, as reported by Asia News.

Building new harbours, warehouses, and cargo ships as well as maintaining regular flights between China and 20 island airports in the most comprehensive scenario would cost 20 billion yuan (USD 2.9 billion), according to SCMP, which includes 80 characteristics.

The report also stated that China would be able to dispatch workers and equipment to any feature within six hours following a typhoon or other emergency thanks to its logistical network.

The simulation did face some difficulties, according to SCMP, including defining variables like the location of the central transport hub, the size and timeline for building a pier, the kinds of transport ships and aircraft, mapping out the routes for those vehicles, and taking into account variations in cargo capacity.

However, SCMP points out that an AI that can take into consideration helicopters is still being developed, whereas the simulation solely took into account fixed-wing aircraft.

With comparable applications in its "grey zone" policy, which involves coercive tactics short of actual military combat, China's grand strategy is poised to give AI an outsized strategic role.

The National Bureau of Asian Research notes in a report from May 2021 that AI, along with other technologies like algorithms, Big Data analytics, and quantum computing, are enabling concepts used in Chinese military doctrine like algorithm confrontation, which asserts that the side with the advantage in data will win a conflict.

The paper also points out that in order to improve marine intelligence, data gathering, and surveillance, China's future grey zone tactics would probably incorporate more cutting-edge technologies, such as AI and associated data-processing capabilities.

Jonathan Hall, in a December 2018 Global Risk Insights piece, mentions that AI might provide China with an advantage over other claimant states and the US in the South China Sea.

According to Hall, China has created a working model of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled diplomatic system that is now utilised to reduce the workload for decision-makers overseeing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), processing massive volumes of data and making recommendations for policy.

Hall notes such technology gives Chinese decision-makers a significant advantage in terms of the effectiveness and precision of their assessments and can be used in other contexts, such as the South China Sea disputes.

In fact, China may already be utilising AI's benefits in its "grey zone" approach to the South China Sea issues, which conflates the use of military power with civilian force to achieve diplomatic and political goals.

According to a report in Asia News, in a January 2022 article for the Jewish Policy Center, Benjamin Noon and Christopher Bassler noted that China's strategists believe that as AI plays a more significant role in decision-making, future warfare will become a race to produce the fastest computers, with wartime commanders having supercomputers that can outperform the decision-making abilities of their operators.

According to Noon and Bassler, China's military planners compare upcoming combat to a video game. The operational commander's mental state determines the outcome of the battle, highlighting psychological warfare. They point out that China wants to outwit the enemy and weaken its resolve to resist.

China's deployment of AI in grey zone strategies, however, might have both positive and negative effects. While AI gives strong military powers a huge tactical edge over weaker governments, SCMP observed in an article from October 2019 that its deployment undermines international trust, necessitating caution in AI applications.

The paper also issues a warning against the prospect of an AI arms race and probable uses of AI in the decision-making process for WMD use, reported Asia News.