State television showed images this week of the unmanned tanks undergoing testing, the Global Times newspaper reported.
Footage showed a Type 59 tank being driven by remote control, in what the paper said was the first time a Chinese-made unmanned tank has been shown in a public forum.
The Type 59 tank is based on an old Soviet model first used in China in the 1950s and has been produced in large numbers and has a long service life, it said.
“A large number of due-to-retire Type 59 tanks can be converted into unmanned vehicles if equipped with artificial intelligence,” Liu Qingshan, the chief editor of Tank and Armoured Vehicle, told the newspaper.
Unmanned tanks will be able to work on other unmanned equipment, integrate information from satellites, aircraft or submarines, the report added.
China is in the middle of an impressive modernisation programme for its armed forces, including building stealth fighters and new aircraft carriers, as President Xi Jinping looks to assert the country’s growing power.