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GAO QIQI: Though a late comer, China making aggressive moves to foster AI industry

| 2017-07-27
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

In May this year, AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence Go-playing program, defeated Ke Jie, the world’s top-ranked player, in their third consecutive game.


Go was previously thought to be the last frontier of human wisdom that is beyond the capability of artificial intelligence (AI), and some are wondering if the genie could soon escape the bottle. People hold different attitudes toward AI development.


Hope, anxiety, confusion—whatever the feeling is, people are certain that AI development will greatly impact human society and even influence international pattern. In this process, China must formulate and implement proper strategies to cope with the situation.


Currently, the United States is the AI leader. Generally speaking, the ranking of global companies by market capitalization is a major indicator of industrial development trends as well as the economic strength and hegemony of a country.


In the early years of the 21st century, oil companies ranked first in terms of market capitalization. Nevertheless, due in part to the development of AI, the top positions are now occupied by US tech companies, which have a comprehensive industrial layout in the area of AI.
 

 

There are a great many US tech companies operating around the world with leading technologies in the field of the internet of things, intelligent driving, intelligent healthcare and other AI-related areas. The United States can be expected to maintain its lead for a relatively long time, or it could achieve monopoly or hegemony.


As for other developed countries, the United Kingdom also has certain advantages that are due to its developed higher education. For example, the research team of AlphaGo is from the country’s University of Oxford.


Germany has a solid industrial base as well as a high level of development in industrial robotics and the internet of things. But compared with the United States, Germany still lacks leading brands and dominant products. In Asia, Japan plays a leading role in robotics and lean manufacturing. However, same as Germany, it is hard to obtain a dominant status in comprehensive development layout and brands.


China is now becoming the new growth pole in the AI arena. In general, China has two major advantages. For one thing, we have massive amounts of users. Once a product is commercialized, it can obtain a large quantity of data from the Chinese market. In the era of AI, data confers a competitive edge. Therefore, though we are not leading in technologies, we can accumulate data resources by putting technologies into the market. Some Chinese companies develop rapidly by relying on the vast Chinese users.


China is also home to a huge number of research personnel. The country has the largest quantity of research papers published and patent applications in the world, showing its great capacity for learning and innovation. In recent years, many researchers have focused on AI development. We have the conditions to keep up with and even surpass the global leaders in advanced technologies.


Now, China is going full blast to develop AI. Some Chinese companies are competing with leading foreign companies. In the AI industry, we should try to forge large companies that can compete against foreign rivals. On the other hand, we should also encourage small entrepreneurial firms through methods like business incubators.


In addition, manufacturing, research and applications should be integrated. Research units and personnel should build long-term cooperative mechanisms with enterprises. In this way, the innovation and vitality of researchers can be combined with that of the middle and small-sized enterprises, drawing on the data advantage granted by the large number of users, they can create a group of globally leading technological companies.

 

Gao Qiqi is a research fellow from the Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics Research Center in Shanghai and a professor from the East China University of Political Science and Law.