Google's Beijing AI center can become global talent magnet

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/13 21:58:40

Google announced Wednesday that it is opening an artificial intelligence (AI) research center in Beijing. This may serve as a springboard for China to attract top-ranking talent from around the world.

The research center will be the first of its kind set up by Google in Asia. Although the company said the research center will aim to employ local talent, people from other countries are unlikely to be rejected. Favorable salaries and working conditions offered by Google will help China siphon off top-ranking Al talent from other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and even India.

Talent is a country's most important asset. If China wants to transform itself from imitator to innovator and lead the way in embracing new technologies in areas such as AI, fintech and biotechnology, it's important for the country to make itself a magnet for global talent. Encouraging multinational companies to set up research centers will be a key step for China to achieve its ambitions.

Some observers are skeptical about whether the government will adopt an open attitude toward overseas investment in this area because research centers owned by foreign companies like Google will "steal" talent from Chinese giants such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

But China can resist the temptation of protectionism. Google's research center will temporarily heat up the battle for talent within China but this is not necessarily a bad thing, if higher salaries and better working conditions make China a more attractive destination for global talent.

China aims to strengthen research and innovation to facilitate the transition from "made in China" to "created in China," and as part of that process, foreign and domestic companies should be treated equally. The argument over whether those research centers will serve Chinese enterprises or the Chinese people is meaningless. If China can make itself more attractive to foreign investment in the areas of research and innovation, this will help pave the way to luring top-ranking talent from around the world. 

California's Silicon Valley is successful not only because it is home to US high-technology companies but also because countless overseas companies have set up research labs there.

During the past decade, the Chinese government has introduced a series of preferential policies to attract talent back to serve Chinese high-technology enterprises, but Silicon Valley's history tells us that attracting foreign investment is perhaps a shortcut to winning the battle for talent.

Google's Al research center in Beijing may represent a milestone in China's strategy in luring global talent.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: EYE ON THE ECONOMY

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