Recently, there have been continuous news and events within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) related to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and military affairs, Taiwan invasion plans, and high-level security.
In particular, there is the sudden and mysterious death of Feng Yanghe (冯旸赫). He was known as the foremost expert in AI military strategy and was once involved in simulating the "Armed Unification of Taiwan" scenario through military strategy. His death raises questions about whether the CCP is intensifying its plans to invade Taiwan.
There is another question: are there people within the ranks of the CCP military risking their lives to stop Xi Jinping's ambitions?
Feng Yanghe, the No. 1 Expert in AI Military Strategy, 'Dies Tragically While Executing a Significant Mission'
On July 1, 2023, a sensitive and influential figure in the CCP's AI military science, Feng Yanghe, passed away suddenly at the age of only 38. Feng was an esteemed expert in national defense technology.
However, the news about his sudden death was only announced 10 days later, on July 11.
The Chinese Association for Artificial Intelligence released an obituary on its official WeChat account. The obituary read:
"Comrade Feng Yanghe, an outstanding member of the Chinese Communist Party, an exceptional young scientific and educational worker in our military, a recipient of the National Defense Science and Technology Outstanding Youth Science Foundation Project, leader of a certain major engineering expert group, chief scientist of a certain key project, associate professor and doctoral supervisor in the System Engineering Institute of the National Defense University, unfortunately, sacrificed his life at 2:35 AM on July 1, 2023, in Beijing while executing a significant mission. He was 38 years old at the time of his passing."
Mysteries Surround Feng's Death
This news of Feng's death immediately sparked great attention and speculation on Chinese social media platforms. There are many unanswered questions.
First, what was the "major engineering expert group" and "key project" Feng was leading?
Second, what vital mission was Feng executing that led to his untimely death in Beijing at 2:35 AM? The Chinese term xisheng (牺牲) was used to describe his death. This term can roughly be translated into "sacrifice." It is usually reserved for those who sacrifice their lives in the context of a war or national duty.
However, an official report by the CCP party media stated that he "passed away tragically due to a car accident." If his death was a result of a car accident, then the obituary should have used the term "passed away," or "died in the line of duty." Why did whoever wrote his obituary use the term "sacrifice"?
Highly Honored Funeral Service
The description of Feng's death may be related to the special nature of his mission. It is known that Feng Yanghe's research focused on AI applications for the CCP's armed unification of Taiwan. This research included "reinforcement learning, intelligent gaming, intelligent planning, and military chess simulation techniques."
Additionally, Feng Yanghe played a significant role in the CCP's military strategy regarding the unification of Taiwan and had some sort of practical role in this regard. Considering this, the "vital mission" he was executing might be closely linked to an armed attack on Taiwan. This could in turn explain why Feng's death would be referred to as a "sacrifice."
On July 15th, Feng Yanghe's funeral service was held at the Babaoshan Funeral Home in Beijing. This raises further speculation. According to CCP regulations, only senior officials at the level of deputy minister and above are entitled to have their funeral service at the First Farewell Room of the Babaoshan Funeral Hall.
Feng Yanghe held the rank only of military colonel and was merely an associate professor at the National Defense University. So why was he granted such an extraordinary funeral service at Babaoshan? What makes him so special?
Feng Yanghe Developed the 'WarBrain' AI Command and Control System
The mainland media refers to Feng Yanghe as a "genius scientist" well-versed in AI and national defense technology, a "leading figure in military AI applications." His death dealt a severe blow to the CCP's command and control systems.
Feng Yanghe's resume also shows that he was jointly trained at the Department of Statistics at Harvard University and the High-Performance Computing Laboratory at the University of Iowa, where he served as an assistant researcher. It is not entirely clear how much of Feng's AI expertise was acquired during his time in the United States.
Chinese media reports claim that the "WarBrain" system developed by Feng Yanghe is the "most powerful brain" for assisting decision-making in constructing military chess simulations. It is also the People's Liberation Army's most advanced mainstream military chess simulation system.
The "WarBrain II" AI assistant for operational decision-making can directly issue commands to fighter jets, naval vessels, and other units. This enables those units to launch attacks under the system's command. The WarBrain II can also "flexibly execute orders based on changes in the battlefield situation."
Feng Yanghe is also known as the "No.1 expert" in PLA military chess simulations. Military chess simulations aim to conduct intelligent simulations and predictions of warfare in advance. In other words, they are an upgraded version of ancient sand tables.
An Undefeated Simulator
A China Military Network report reveals that, in 2019, during the Third National Military Chess Simulation Competition's Man-Machine Challenge, the "WarBrain" system won the championship with an undefeated record. Feng Yanghe was WarBrain's system leader and chief designer.
Chinese media also reported on the 2020 military chess simulation competition. Those report that Feng Yanghe's team developed "WarBrain II," which employed a joint regional air defense strategy. Using a defense firepower network composed of destroyers and naval aircraft, Feng's team launched a powerful counterattack against enemy aerial fighters. This counterattack eventually turned a disadvantage into victory with a one-plane advantage.
Feng Yanghe remarked on the feat. "This year's AI system achieved three modules: joint air defense, sea attack, and aerial combat. Through the organization between modules, the AI system can face different enemies and adopt different tactics to adapt to changing situations. This year's AI system no longer issues 'action-level' instructions to entities such as airplanes and ships, specifying their specific directions of movement. Instead, it relies on intelligent models with autonomous decision-making capabilities to guide entities in completing 'task-level' instructions, such as patrol, reconnaissance, and firing."
In other words, the CCP's intelligent control system has already achieved a certain level of autonomous decision-making capability. So, entities can make autonomous decisions and actions based on the battlefield situation. They can thereby improve operational efficiency and the flexibility of tactics.
Using AI To Battle In the Taiwan Strait?
Experts believe that the application of artificial intelligence technology in military command and control systems mainly involves several aspects:
- Strategic warning: AI technology provides strategic-level command centers with the ability to predict and alert significant events.
- Assisting combat decisions: By analyzing and processing a large amount of intelligence, intelligent optimization is used to determine targets and evaluate plans, providing support for military command and control decisions.
- Achieving integrated combat command: This involves integrating land, sea, air, and space forces into one information environment, where detected target data can be inputted into the system in real-time. Commanders can then choose the optimal attack method based on the target type.
- Resource allocation and task management: In conflicts, AI can handle and analyze information automatically, reminding commanders to make better decisions.
Obviously, Feng Yanghe's main research direction focused on the second and third aspects. In other words, his research aimed to make various combat weapons more intelligent, allowing fighter jets, bombers, warships, and other entities to achieve remote intelligent attacks against the enemy through artificial input of combat commands. This in turn allows for zero casualties on the battlefield.
If a war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, leading to a direct military confrontation between China and the United States, what role will Feng Yanghe's researched intelligent command system play?
Feng Yanghe's Death a Heavy Blow to CCP Plans
According to experts, the intelligence of command and control places extremely high demands on practitioners. It requires relevant technical personnel to be proficient in computer science and possess a deep understanding of military knowledge.
Feng Yanghe was undoubtedly one of the top talents in this field within the CCP's military. His death undoubtedly delayed the improvement of the CCP's technology in this area. And naturally it has dealt a blow to the senior leadership in Beijing.
Head of the CCP's Special Security Bureau Replaced After Feng Yanghe's Death
Was Feng Yanghe's death simply due to a car accident, or could there be other reasons behind it? The term "sacrifice" used in his obituary sounds like he was killed by the enemy. Are there any other reasons behind his death?
On July 14, shortly after Feng Yanghe's death, the official website of the CCP's Ministry of Public Security suddenly announced that Wang Zhizhong, a member of the Ministry's Party Committee and Vice Minister, would also serve as the Party Secretary and Director of the Special Security Bureau.
The Special Security Bureau of the CCP's Public Security Ministry is a very sensitive and significant institution. It is responsible for the protection of the so-called "Four Vice and Two Supreme" leaders.
(These are: the Vice Chairman of China, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Vice Premier or State Councillor of the State Council, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Chairman of the Supreme People's Court, and Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate.)
The Public Security Ministry is also responsible for protecting foreign dignitaries visiting China. And for maintaining security at major events.
Before July 14, the head of the Special Security Bureau was concurrently held by Wang Xiaohong, the Minister of Public Security.
A Curious High-Level Shake-Up
Wang Zhizhong was Chief of the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department as recently as June 26, 2023. Wang Zhizhong was then promoted to Vice Minister of Public Security. In other words, less than 20 days after his promotion to Vice Minister of Public Security, he replaced Wang Xiaohong as the head of the Special Security Bureau. This was also shortly after Feng Yanghe's death.
Feng Yanghe is said to have "sacrificed," as stated in his obituary, during the "execution of a significant task." Feng also received an over-standard funeral at Babaoshan, a place normally reserved for high-ranking CCP leaders. This all means that Feng Yanghe received treatment enjoyed only by senior leaders.
Then, does this imply that the Special Security Bureau, which should have protected Feng while he was "executing a significant task," failed in its duty? Is Wang Xiaohong's removal from the head of the Special Security Bureau position related to this?
Death from Car Accident, or Something Else?
Feng Yanghe's obituary mentioned that he "sacrificed while executing a significant task" at 2:35 am. Another report stated that he died in a car accident. Can we infer that his task was so significant that he was still working at 2:35 am? Or that he had just completed his work and got into a car accident on his way home? What kind of task was he working on at 2:35 am?
Feng was the leading figure in the CCP's military simulation game for "Armed Unification of Taiwan." Also, Feng's AI system was primarily focused on assisting combat decisions and achieving integrated combat command. Can we deduce from this that the CCP is working overtime to formulate specific plans for attacking Taiwan?
There are online rumors claiming that Feng Yanghe was involved in an accident while riding a DiDi ride-hailing car. That is a service similar to Uber. He was supposedly crushed between a bus and a cement truck. Some people even posted a photo claiming it was the scene of the accident on Changchun Street in Beijing.
However, some have raised doubts, questioning how such an important figure like Feng Yanghe didn't have a dedicated car. Why would he need to use a ride-hailing car like an ordinary person after work?
Was Feng Yanghe Assassinated By An Antiwar Official?
Another point of skepticism is that if Feng Yanghe really died at 2:35 am, there shouldn't have been public buses on the road at that time. So how could he be crushed by a bus?
Furthermore, at 2:35 am, there should have been few vehicles on the road, so how did he end up in a fatal accident?
Let's make a bold speculation, considering the recent rumors about the CCP's Rocket Force voluntarily providing information to the United States, indicating that they do not want to go to war with the US. Could it be that Feng Yanghe's sudden death was the result of a precise strike, an assassination by someone within the CCP's military who also did not want war?
If not, then, according to Chinese folklore, we can attribute Feng's death only to the will of heaven. There would seem to be no other explanation.
Regardless of whether Feng's death was a "natural accident" or a precise beheading, it deals a significant blow to the CCP's ambition to attack Taiwan. Perhaps this could be interpreted as a warning from above to Xi Jinping.
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Author: Jennifer Zeng