UK and Japan spar over inviting China to global AI summit, shows divergence within G7
Published: Aug 24, 2023 09:37 PM
AI Photo: VCG

AI Photo: VCG

An upcoming global summit on artificial intelligence (AI) has led to sparring between the UK and Japan over whether to invite China, a leading power in this field, as one of the participants. 

Chinese observers said the UK and Japan, both members of G7, hold a divergence of opinion and cling to decisions out of their own considerations when it comes to putting China-related policies into action, though the G7 as a whole is increasingly bending to US pressure and becoming a group with a "strategic alignment" against China.

The news of the UK holding the first-ever AI Safety Summit this autumn was announced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to the US in June. Citing Japanese and UK government sources, a report from Nikkei said the UK is "keen to invite China to the summit." 

However, the Nikkei report said the Japanese government has informed the UK it would not support inviting China to the AI summit. It mentioned alternative proposals to hold separate meetings on AI, including a summit limited o Group of Seven leaders.

The UK is seeking to increase its visibility in the international community in dealing with cutting-edge affairs and technologies related to AI. However, it acknowledges that it is not possible to reach the broad range of international standards and rules in AI if it does not include China, a leading power in this field, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.

More importantly, allowing representatives from China to attend the AI summit opens a door for UK and other countries to gain more understanding about the progress China has made in the field of AI, including how China sets relevant rules and AI capabilities, Cui noted. "There is no doubt that inviting China could elevate the effectiveness of reaching an agreement in AI, given the country's significant advancements in AI technology."

The openness from the UK to invite China to the summit is in line with its foreign policy toward China. While striking a tough tone, Downing Street also emphasizes cooperating with Beijing on some global issues, Cui noted. 

The announcement of the summit comes ahead of a reported visit by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to China at the end of August, according to Reuters, which described the visit as a "long-awaited trip seeking to stabilize a turbulent relationship that has sunk to its lowest point in decades."

A friendly gesture to invite China to its AI summit could be an approach from the UK to ease ties with China, Cui noted.

Japan believed it is too early to include China in top-level discussions before the G7 reaches a certain consensus on AI, according to the previously mentioned Nikkei report.

At the Hiroshima summit in May, G7 leaders agreed to launch an initiative dubbed the Hiroshima AI Process to address generative AI-related issues, and the Japanese government hopes to play a leading role in it, Japan Times reported. 

The opposition from the Japanese government against inviting China before G7 finalizes any agreement in this regard shows Tokyo's true intention of wanting to be viewed as the only representative country from Asia to discuss this hot topic, so as to satisfy its geopolitical ambitions, Cui noted. 

Li Haidong, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times earlier that Japan's role in the G7 is that of a US vassal confronting China in the region. It is also egging on other extraterritorial countries to interfere in regional affairs to amplify its power to counterweigh China, as the country is more envious about China's growing influence in the region.