What's new

China Leading the AI Patent and Shipbuilding Race


Nov 4, 2011
Reaction score

China Leading the AI Patent and Shipbuilding Race

Mar 25

A Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) can design a warship’s electrical system in just 24 hours.

It takes the AI just 24 hours to design a ship’s electrical system, The EurAsian Times claims. In contrast, it could take a team of human engineers almost a year to complete the same work, a team at the China Ship Design and Research Center claims.

The AI bases its design on a database of ship design knowledge and experience, The South China Morning Post reports. They check the design against the database to ensure it complies with standards.

The AI laid out the electrical system with 100% accuracy, team leader Luo Wei claims. Designing the electrical system required the AI to learn over 400 challenging tasks. Notably, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) funded the research.

The AI could help the PLAN achieve its goal of building a 400 ship fleet by 2025. Moreover, they could use the AI to design other armaments, such as airplanes, missiles, and drones. In particular, an AI could design drones, missiles, or torpedoes for specific purposes. For example, a special drone or missile to destroy an enemy warship or landing craft for a Taiwan invasion.

Chinese Shipbuilding Speeds up

Theoretically, the AI can speed up Chinese shipbuilding by eliminating the need for hundreds of designers and mountains of paper. This threatens US naval dominance because Chinese warship building capability already exceeds America’s shipbuilding capacity.

For example, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro claims China has “13 shipyards, in some cases their shipyard has more capacity. One shipyard has more capacity than all of our shipyards combined.” In comparison, the United States has seven shipyards that produce large vessels for the US Navy and Coast Guard, CNN reports.

The PLAN had a fleet of 348–355 warships in 2021, the Center for Strategic & and International Studies (CSIS) estimates. That fleet already exceeds the US Navy’s force, which had 296 warships in 2021.

Chinese shipbuilding capacity was impressive before the AI. Chinese shipyards built more vessels than the nations of India, Japan, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom combined, The Economic Times claims. German Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schonbachsaid claims the PLAN is adding the equivalent of the French navy every four years.

Notably, the Chinese Navy added 28 ships in 2021 while the US Navy launched seven new warships in the same year, the CSIS reports. Chinese shipyards launched 678,000 tons of warships between 2014 and 2018 or more than the tonnage of the French and Spanish navies combined. China is the world’s largest shipbuilder with over 40% of the global market for ocean-going vessels.

China can win a Naval War with the US

The PLAN has enough ships to win a war with the US Navy, Sam Trangredi claims.

Superior ship numbers usually overcome better technology, Tangredi observes. During the Napoleonic Wars, for example, “French warships were superior in the technology of ship design and construction, but ultimately, it was the large numbers of Royal Navy ships that prevented Napoleon from crossing the Channel,” Trangredi writes.

Hence, the PLAN could have the advantage in a future war. Tangredi, a retired US Navy Captain, is the Leidos Chair of Future Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College.

However, a CSIS simulation found a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would cripple both the US Navy and the PLAN because they could lose hundreds of ships in combat. For example, the US could lose two aircraft carriers. The US could win but find itself without an effective Navy.

Conversely, the Chinese could build a new fleet fast while the US and its allies could not. Hence, the US could find itself in the same situation as the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II. The Japanese lost because the US could replace lost ships faster than Japanese shipyards. Although, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s technology was often superior to the US Navy’s equipment.

China leads in AI Patents

Chinese companies hold the most AI and Machine Learning patents. I estimate three Chinese companies held 26,003 AI and machine learning patents in 2021. To elaborate, machine learning is the process of teaching AIs to perform tasks such as ship design.

Those companies are Tencent Holdings, Baidu and Pingan. Statista estimates Tencent Holdings held 9,614 AI and machine learning patents, Baidu held 9,504 machine learning and AI patents, and Ping An held 6,410 such patents in 2021.

The number of Chinese AI and machine learning patent patents is growing fast. Statista estimates Tencent’s AI-related patents grew from 711 in 2017 to 2021, and Baidu’s artificial intelligence patent number rose from 1,134 in 2017 to 9,504 in 2021.

However, the third largest holder of AI and machine learning patent was IBM (IBM) which held 7,343 such patents in 2021, Statista estimates. IBM’s AI patent number grew from 2,921 in 2017.
I think China’s AI advantage could translate into a massive increase in Chinese industrial production and military power. Moreover, I do not think the United States can catch up.

Chinese industrial and technological capabilities are growing fast. I think the US cannot keep up with the growth of Chinese industrial, military, and technological capabilities.


Top Bottom