The head of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says that China is set to surpass the United States in artificial intelligence by 2025, a development that could have huge military implications.

Eric Schmidt said he did not like to compare the competition over AI to an “arms race,” but clearly other experts note that countries with superior AI capabilities would no doubt apply them to military systems, giving them major advantages.

“I’m assuming our [U.S.] lead will continue over the next five years and then that China will catch up extremely quickly,” the Google leader told the Center for New American Security’s Paul Scharre at the Artificial Intelligence & Global Security Summit.

China, in July, revealed a massive national plan to develop AI, to guide both commercial and military development.

““By 2020, they will have caught up. By 2025, they will be better than us. By 2030, they will dominate the industries,” Schmidt said.

He added that the U.S. should adopt a similar approach in order to remain out front.

“We need to get our act together, as a country…This is the moment when the [U.S.] government collectively, and private industry, needs to say, ‘these technologies are important.’”

Analyst comment: The benefits of AI applications for military systems are incalculable. The technology could push us past the technological glitches we still have with missile defense, laser weaponry, cyberwarfare and other emerging systems. If China (or any other nation) beats us, that will have negative geopolitical consequences for Washington.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-China conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.