Building deep talent pool just the first step in China’s quest to dominate AI

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/19 20:43:40

China's increasingly visible presence in the global artificial intelligence (AI) arena, it is argued, doesn't mean that the nation has unseated the US as the dominance force in the world of AI.

If China fails to build a strong AI talent pipeline, it might well be that all the hype about displacing the US leads China into the trap of overconfidence.

Amid the continued talk about China's rise in AI, the Financial Times ran an article last week, saying that "it is hard to avoid the conclusion that China is now in serious competition with the US for dominance in AI." The conclusion was based on China's impressive performance at one of the leading AI scientific conferences. At the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of AI held in New Orleans last month, China submitted 1,242 papers, 25 percent more than the US. What's more, China was only three papers behind the US as measured by acceptances.

The numbers surely indicate the substantial headway China has made in the global race for AI. It is noteworthy that the nation isn't just marching ahead in terms of publications, but that it has seen AI innovation turning out to be an increasingly indispensable component of its economy.

Domestic internet leaders such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and are making hefty bets on AI. Local AI start-ups including Face++, SenseTime and YITU that have become globally known also serve to crank up the music played to celebrate the country's AI advances.

It seems, nonetheless, that there's been too much excitement. A report jointly released by Chinese startup database IT Juzi and Tencent Research Institute in August 2017 revealed that as of the end of June 2017, there were 2,542 AI enterprises worldwide, with the US hosting 41 percent of the total and China second with 23 percent. The report also revealed that China trailed the US in terms of AI-related investment and human resources.

These findings speak for themselves, and they're a reminder that China can't jump to the conclusion that it will surpass the US in AI anytime soon.

The rapid development of AI in China is in part due to the country's huge market, large population and fewer privacy concerns among the public, which means it's easier to collect data. But as the global race for AI intensifies, China may fall behind if it can't build a powerful talent base that matches its AI ambitions.

Luckily, some leading Chinese universities including the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xidian University and Nanjing University have set up AI technology schools, in an effort to meet the country's thirst for AI talent. But that's just one early step on China's journey to AI dominance.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus