2 min readA deeper study of China’s AI dream

Despite the claim that China is currently leading the AI race, there is little information about how China is directing AI development within its borders, and whether such development is being considered at a global scale. Following the release of the Chinese State Council’s AI plan in November last year, Jeffrey Ding has been studying AI policy and various documents from the Chinese government, and has developed a report which aims to demystify China’s AI aspirations.

Some Important Highlights

  • The State Council plan was not the starting point of China’s AI planning. Local governments, companies, and the academia has been going at AI research even before the plan was developed. Also, the Council plan was just an extension of previous science and technology plans implemented in the country.
  • The main driver for AI development in China is not the national government, but rather, private companies, academic labs, bureaucratic agencies, and subnational government. Instead, the national government is providing financial and regulatory support to guide the developments.
  • China has a different definition of “winning” the AI race. Ding’s assessment shows that the country’s AI capacities are lesser than that of the US, but might overtake soon due to the collaborative innovation environment being developed in the country.
  • AI ethics and safety is being discussed in China. In fact, Tencent Research Institute has recently released a book exploring the need for awareness of AI issues.
  • The main driver for AI development in China is economics, however, new developments have enabled the government to see viability of applications in social governance.

Why It Matters

As we all know, artificial intelligence is a collective challenge for the entire human civilization. China has created a unified AI plan, what prevents other countries from doing so?

In the US, the discussion of nationalizing AI is currently underway. Meanwhile, companies in Silicon Valley has been rolling out unregulated AI products every couple of months. France is taking the same route as China, and is wanting to frame the AI discussion at a global context. With both countries understanding the need for cooperation and mutual benefit when it comes to AI technologies, it is only a matter of time before they begin collaborating and sharing resources. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing for the rest of the world, depending on what their end goals will be.

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