Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund has appointed the founder of artificial intelligence (AI) start-up SenseTime as a board member – marking the first time a foreign national has been formally appointed to such a position at Khazanah Nasional. Tang Xiao’ou, a mainland Chinese national and professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, will advise on AI-related matters, according to an announcement on Monday. The fund also appointed Malaysian national Lau Seng Yee, senior executive vice-president and chairman of group marketing and global branding at Tencent Holdings, as a board member. The appointment by Khazanah – which means “treasure” in Malay – comes amid the US$38 billion fund’s efforts to step up technology investments by tapping outside expertise. Malaysia supports Huawei, but network control is more worrying than spying Malaysian interest in Chinese technology is high, with the country’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad including tours of SenseTime’s Beijing office, Alibaba Group Holding and car maker Geely in his visits to the country over the past year. The 93-year-old leader also backed Huawei Technologies during a public appearance in May, vowing to use its gear “as much as possible”, despite the telecommunications giant being in the crosshairs of Washington’s push back against Chinese 5G suppliers. In an earlier forum in Tokyo, Mahathir said China currently boasts about having “the best technology in the world”, and that the US had to accept the new status quo. SenseTime, which specialises in AI-driven computer vision technologies including facial recognition, signed a deal with G3 Global and China Harbour Engineering Co in April to establish an AI park in Malaysia that will co-develop applications of the technology in transport, finance, telecoms, tourism, education and smart city applications, as well as train AI talent. Beijing recruits AI start-up from Hong Kong to lead tech drive SenseTime also has a research collaboration effort with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. Starting out as a research project at Hong Kong Science Park in 2014, SenseTime claims to be the world’s most valuable AI start-up with a valuation of more than US$4.5 billion. The company was also hand-picked by Beijing to spearhead the country’s innovation efforts in AI. Incorporated in 1994, Khazanah had RM136 billion (US$32.9 billion) in assets under management as of the end of last year and was one of the early investors in Alibaba, parent company of the South China Morning Post . Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, managing director of the fund, said at a conference in October that Khazanah plans to increase its investments in China’s tech sector.