China is a clear example of a country that is resolutely striving to dominate the era of AI. Recognizing that “the rapid development of AI will revolutionize humankind and the world”, the Chinese government has launched a program aimed at “seizing the strategic opportunities created by developments in AI, to give China a competitive edge in the development of AI”.
A component of this strategic program is the government’s investment of tens of billions of dollars in the development of these technologies and their implementation in Chinese companies, in order to meet the goals the government has set: By 2020, China will bridge its gap with the West; by 2025, China will lead important breakthroughs in the field, and will implement them in critical infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and other fields; and by 2030, China will be the global leader in AI.1
The chances of this vision becoming a reality are high, because China has several structural advantages over other countries in this race. It has a vast number of researchers and engineers in the field, in contrast with a tremendous shortage of skilled professionals in other countries. Furthermore, this skilled human capital has access to a massive amount of data derived both from the country’s high population and from its less stringent regulation of collecting data from private citizens. In a field that is based on the integration of algorithms and data, this translates into a huge advantage. China is already dominating with 48% of all global equity investments in AI startups, in contrast with just over 10% in 2016 – a trend that is expected to continue.2 Huge companies such as Baidu and Tencent are already leaders in this revolution with their extensive implementation of AI technologies.
expected to continueChina’s explicit objective is to harness AI-based technologies in an effort to continue the strong economic growth of the last few decades, which has slightly abated in the past decade. This reflects a shift in Beijing’s mindset. It hopes to turn China into a technological superpower, and to leave its image of a low-cost manufacturing hub behind. Correspondingly, China does not want to continue to keep up with the technological progress of the West; rather, it wants to be quick to implement new technologies and to overtake developed countries.