Artificial intelligence becomes new arena of competition for talent among tech firms in China

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/7 20:48:39

Alphabet Inc's Google is reportedly snapping up Chinese experts to specialize in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for its Beijing office, a move underlining the fierce race for AI talent in the country.

By advertising for machine learning experts, the US technology giant is seeking to establish its first China-based research team, according to recent media reports. Google's move may put pressure on local AI players like Baidu, which have been ramping up efforts to hire AI talent in China and abroad.

The competition for AI talent is expected to get even fiercer, now that the State Council, China's cabinet, has issued a road map to guide the development of AI in which it sets a goal of becoming a global AI leader by 2030. The ambitious plan forecast the value of the domestic AI sector to exceed 1 trillion yuan ($153.83 billion) by that year. Needless to say, the Chinese government will offer policy support and make heavy investments in the key innovative sector.

Many industry reports have already said that China is at the forefront of global AI development. For instance, Goldman Sachs said last week that China has the talent, data and infrastructure for AI development - three of the four the bank identifies. It said that Chinese companies have made huge breakthroughs in the global AI arena. But it pointed out that China still lags behind the US in AI research, and talent is essential for it to catch up with the US in that regard.

According to a report released by networking site LinkedIn in July, China accounts for just slightly more than 50,000 of the 1.9 million AI specialists around the world, ranking seventh. The US tops the ranking with 850,000. The ratio of AI experts with at least 10 years of industry experience in China is 38.7 percent, a stark contrast to the 71.5 percent of those in the US, the report found.

To help address that shortcoming, China's top three Internet giants - Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba - have been recruiting top-level AI talent from Silicon Valley, according to recent media reports.

On Thursday, the AI Computing Conference, hosted by the Chinese Academy of Engineering's Division of Information and Electronics Engineering, was held in Beijing. Unlike other industry events, the conference organized a one-day technical training session for attendees on Wednesday, which showed regulators' eagerness to improve the quality of China's AI talent base.

With the world's largest Internet population, China has a huge pool of personal data for AI research and a vast market for AI applications, making it more attractive to AI professionals.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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