China’s State Council released a statement of intent to build a domestic industry in artificial intelligence worth $150 billion and become the world leader in AI by 2030. China is also planning a multi-billion dollar investment in startups and academic research related to AI, say two professors consulting with the Chinese government. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting back on investments in science, and budget proposals from the Trump administration aim to cut funds from agencies supporting AI research.
The New York Times reports that, although China’s capabilities in new, advanced tech has “long lagged those of its better developed neighbors,” a policy to catch up has “paid dividends.” Apparently, China’s interest in AI dates back to the 2016 defeat of South Korean “Go” master Lee Se-dol by Google’s AlphaGo, followed by the defeat of the world’s top-ranked player Ke Jie of China.
As a result, China began pouring money into AI, as well as creating plans to use AI “for everything from agriculture and medicine to manufacturing,” as well as homeland security and surveillance, guided missiles, Internet censorship and even crime prediction.
All this has “set off alarms within the United States’ defense establishment,” which has found that Chinese money is also “flowing into American AI companies,” including those “likely to help the United States military develop future weapons systems.”
China’s timeline for developing AI calls on “companies and research facilities to be at the same level as leading countries like the United States by 2020,” with the idea that five years later, it will see “breakthroughs in select disciplines” in AI that will be “a key impetus for economic transformation.” By 2030, says the policy, China will have established itself as “the world’s premier artificial intelligence innovation center.”
Following the national statement, “a large number of local governments have created special plans and built out research centers” to focus on AI, with some of them “spending hundreds of millions of dollars” or more. The government of Tianjin, an eastern city near Beijing, stated plans to set up a $5 billion fund supporting AI.
Baidu, which runs an AI research center in Silicon Valley, also plans to “open a new lab in cooperation with the government,” headed by “two leaders [who] … worked on Chinese government programs with military applications.”