HONG KONG — When the United States Air Force wanted help making military robots more perceptive, it turned to a Boston-based artificial intelligence start-up called Neurala. But when Neurala needed money, it got little response from the American military. So Neurala turned to China, landing an undisclosed sum from an investment firm backed by a state-run Chinese company. Chinese firms have become significant investors in American start-ups working on cutting-edge technologies with potential military applications. The start-ups include companies that make rocket engines for spacecraft, sensors for autonomous navy ships, and printers that make flexible screens that could be used in fighter-plane cockpits. Many of the Chinese firms are owned by state-owned companies or have connections to Chinese leaders.
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