US urged to abandon self-imposed constraints of technological protectionism before first high-level AI talks with China
Washington urged to abandon self-imposed constraints of protectionism
Published: May 14, 2024 08:21 PM
China US

China US

The scheduled high-level talks between China and the US over the risks of artificial intelligence (AI) and global governance are widely seen by Chinese experts as a positive sign for the two major powers to mitigate misunderstandings, close the gap in divergences and seek cooperation potential in this field.

But experts also said it is crucial for the US, which has long regarded AI as a core strategic area of competition against China, to abandon its self-imposed constraints of technological protectionism and work toward promoting possible common solutions on topics of concern.

The talks are scheduled on Tuesday in Geneva. Commenting on the talks on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin did not elaborate much, but reiterated that the meeting is delivering on the common understandings reached by the two presidents in San Francisco, as agreed by the two sides.

The two sides are expected to exchange views on the risks and global governance as well as other issues of respective concern on AI, Wang noted. 

The dialogue is positive in terms of prompting the two countries to understand each other better, mitigate mutual misunderstanding and close divergences. Both China and the US should shoulder responsibility to seek common solutions to address AI risks for the sustainable development and application of AI, Liu Wei, director of the human-machine interaction and cognitive engineering laboratory at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Echoing Liu, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that initial discussions between China and the US - both competitors and cooperators - are encouraging. It is time for the US to demonstrate its positivity and practical attitude to pave the way for future bilateral cooperation in this field.

Lü noted that China has maintained an open attitude toward cooperating with other countries, including the US, on AI for the advancement of global interests in technology development. Despite the US designating AI as a core strategic area of competition against China, it harbors strong suspicions regarding China's rapid AI progress and has implemented highly restrictive measures on key technologies, Lü told the Global Times on Tuesday.

According to The Washington Post, the US delegation will be led by Seth Center, State Department deputy envoy for critical and emerging technology, and Tarun Chhabra, senior director for technology and national security at the National Security Council. China will be represented by officials from the Foreign Ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission. 

Lü said it is anticipated that during the high-level talks this time, China will reiterate its open stance for cooperation, urging the US to abandon its self-imposed constraints of technological protectionism and work toward promoting mutual understanding between China and the US in AI. 

"While there is competition between the two sides in the field of AI, there is also room for cooperation," Liu said.

The meeting of the China-US government dialogue on AI may touch upon a range of topics, including data sharing and privacy protection, the development and application of AI technology, ethical and legal issues, the relationship between humans and machines, as well as international cooperation and regulatory frameworks for AI, Chinese experts said.

Potential forms of collaboration may include joint research projects, talent exchanges, and data sharing, Liu noted. 

Based on recent remarks by US officials, the US's strategic competition against China is not expected to see significant improvement, Lü noted.

Officials from the Biden administration stated that they are not seeking to issue a joint statement or engage in cooperation with China in AI research, according to The Washington Post. Washington will not negotiate on "national security measures." Biden administration officials did not specify whether the talks involved TikTok or Huawei.

On whether the two sides could reach a possible consensus, Liu holds a cautious attitude as well. "It is good to see the two countries exploring common solutions to promote sustainable development and application of AI. But whether a cooperation agreement can be reached depends on the convergence of mutual willingness and interests between the two sides during the meetings," he said. 

"To be very clear, talks with Beijing are not focused on promoting any form of technical collaboration or cooperating on frontier research in any matter. And our technology protection policies are not up for negotiation," Reuters quoted one US official ahead of the meeting. 

The Washington Post cited scholars stating that such talks could reach a better consensus on the military applications of AI technology, and agree on which data can be used across borders for AI model training and other issues.