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China has won the artificial intelligence battle with the United States and is heading towards global dominance because of its technological advances, the Pentagon’s former software chief told the Financial Times following his resignation.

The Pentagon’s first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, said he resigned in protest at the slow pace of technological transformation in the US military, and because he could not stand to watch China overtake America. 

In his first interview since leaving the post at the Department of Defense, he said: “We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years”.

He blamed sluggish innovation, the reluctance of U.S. companies such as Google to work with the state on AI, and extensive ethical debates over the technology.

Chinese companies, Chaillan said, were obliged to work with their government and were making “massive investment” in AI without regard to ethics.

Chaillan announced his resignation at the beginning of September, saying military officials were repeatedly put in charge of cyber initiatives for which they lacked experience.

Chaillan, who had spent three years on a Pentagon-wide effort to boost cyber security and as first chief software officer for the US Air Force, said Beijing is heading for global dominance because of its advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber capabilities. These emerging technologies were far more critical to America’s future than hardware such as fifth-generation fighter jets, he added.

In June, the US Senate approved the United States Innovation and Competition Act to boost US semiconductor production, artificial intelligence development, and other technology.

The injection of around $250 billion, to be invested in the next five years, was widely seen as much-needed cash in the race for technological innovation against China.