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Yellow Techno-Peril: The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and anti-Chinese racial rhetoric in the US–China AI arms race

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jats:p The rhetoric of an ‘AI arms race’ between the United States and China has become increasingly prominent over the past 5 years, despite warnings that it is unnecessarily polarising and undermines safe and ethical artificial intelligence (AI) development. However, existing critiques of the AI arms race narrative engage only sparingly with the racialised dimensions of this discourse. In this article, I draw on the rich theoretical insights of Asian American and Asian diaspora studies to show how the AI arms race narrative is deeply racialised in two key ways. First, I show how the rhetoric of an AI arms race builds upon the myth of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ between the West and the East. This civilisational rhetoric constitutes China and the United States as distinct and mutually opposed cultural entities, thus foreclosing the possibility of more peaceful and cooperative alternatives to the AI arms race. Second, I demonstrate how the US–China AI arms race specifically draws on previous racialised configurations of anti-Asian sentiment, such as techno-Orientalism and the Yellow Peril. I coin the term Yellow Techno-Peril to connote how older European and Americans fears of being overrun or controlled by China are reproduced in the AI arms race. I close by offering recommendations to key stakeholders such as policymakers, decisionmakers, journalists and media organisations as to how they can mitigate and avoid the racialised rhetoric of an AI arms race between the United States and China. </jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Stiftung Mercator Foundation


racism, Orientalism, technology, Artificial intelligence, United States, China

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Big Data &amp; Society

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SAGE Publications