Artificial Intelligence
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Artificial intelligence

Beijing to set out artificial intelligence development plan up to 2030

China’s top technology official says the blueprint will focus on capability, applications, risk management and global collaboration

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 6:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 11:16pm

China’s top technology official said Beijing has laid out a national roadmap to guide the development of artificial intelligence (AI) until the year 2030 as the country’s tech companies pour resources into competing with Western rivals in a race to dominate the field.

Wan Gang, the minister of science and technology, said on Thursday that the AI development plan has already been drafted and will soon be released to the public.

It is expected to address issues in four key areas: the building up of AI capability, the application of AI technologies, the introduction of policies to handle the risks brought about by AI – such as job losses – and international collaboration, according to Wan.

His comments were reported by mainland media when he delivered the opening speech of the World Intelligence Congress, China’s first ever official conference on AI, organised by some of the country’s most powerful government organisations, including the top cyber authority.

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Wan didn’t reveal how much money Beijing will put towards developing AI technologies but he said during the annual meeting of China’s parliament in March that the central government would set up a special fund for research into the core technologies behind AI.

The soon-to-be-released blueprint is also expected to reveal China’s plans to “rapidly gather AI talent” and “encourage foreign companies to set up research and development centres for AI technologies in China”, he said.

Wan’s speech came amid a rising tide of AI investment and activity in China. Companies large and small all want to get their hands on the technology that forms the basis of myriad real world applications, from facial recognition to more futuristic incarnations like autonomous self-driving vehicles.

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The United States took an early lead in the field, but many AI advocates in China believe the country has a great chance of eventually overtaking its Western rival as the worldwide leader.

China has a lot of advantages. It has the data, the market and the talent, according to Robin Li Yanhong, the chief executive of Baidu, which operates the country’s dominant internet search engine.

“A large number of the published AI papers in the world are written by Chinese. It looks like we are born to do this,” he said at the World Intelligence Congress in Tianjin.

A large number of the published AI papers in the world are written by Chinese. It looks like we are born to do this
Robin Li, chief executive, Baidu

All of the country’s top three internet giants, Baidu, Tencent Holding and Alibaba Group have been pushing hard to poach the best AI talent from Silicon Valley, mostly Chinese scientists who study and work in the US.

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Just this week, Alibaba – which owns the South China Morning Post – announced the appointment of Ren Xiaofeng, the former senior principal scientist at Amazon.com, to lead its data and technology lab and spearhead efforts in artificial intelligence.

According to a PwC report released earlier this week, China will see the greatest economic gains globally from AI by 2030, with an estimated 26 per cent boost to its GDP by that time.

AI technologies are expected to boost the world’s GDP by 14 per cent by 2030 – the equivalent of an additional US$15.7 trillion – by improving labour productivity and spurring consumption, said the report.

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