China Dumps Billions Into Massive Artificial Intelligence Project As It Strives To Become A Global AI Leader

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China plans to spend billions of dollars on a new artificial intelligence research and development base in the capital city, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.

The $2 billion artificial intelligence technology research and development park — to be constructed in western Beijing — is expected to draw in over 400 businesses and generate an annual output value of at least $7 billion, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Zhongguancun Development Group, the developer, hopes to partner with foreign and domestic universities, research institutes, and companies to build the facility into a major national-level artificial intelligence research center.

Artificial intelligence is an emerging field in which China intends to emerge as a global leader within the next few decades, according to state plans presented last summer. When Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered his New Year’s address, China watchers noticed two books on artificial intelligence sitting on the shelf in the background, highlighting the growing importance of this new research field in the mind of the Chinese leader.

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, warned last year that China clearly intends to become a key player in artificial intelligence research and possibly even overtake the U.S.

“Trust me, these Chinese people are good,” he explained at the Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit last year, “They are going to use this technology for both commercial as well as military objectives with all sorts of implications.” He urged the U.S. to develop its own artificial intelligence strategy to remain competitive.

Others believe China has a lot of catching up to do to play on the same level as the U.S. “I don’t think they’ll (China) be number one, because I think there’s still a level of genius and creativity in Silicon Valley that persists and will always persist,” venture capitalist Jim Breyer told CNBC Wednesday.

With the help of foreign companies and research teams, China may be able to close the gap faster than expected.

Notably, Google is preparing to open a new artificial intelligence research center in Beijing. While the Silicon Valley tech giant argues that “A.I. and its benefits have no borders,” China has a tendency to place its national interests above meaningful cooperation.

China has made it clear that it wants to lead the artificial intelligence movement and is investing heavily in this emerging industry in hopes of creating a $150 billion industry within the next few years.


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