AI Technology: China Set For World Domination?


By 2030 China plan to be the world leaders in AI technology.

As Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google has explained, “It’s pretty simple. By 2020, they will have caught up. By 2025, they will be better than us. By 2030, they will dominate the industries of AI.

Here are the numbers:

  • Projections show that by 2030, deployed AI technology will add $15.7 trillion to global GDP.
  • China alone will account for $7 trillion of that growth.
  • This is almost double that of North America at $3.7 trillion.
  • China accounted for 48% of the worlds total AI Technology startup funding in 2017.
  • Compare that to the Americas on 38%
  • AI giant Alibaba has unveiled plans to invest $15 billion into international research labs over the next three years.
  • In 2017 China’s mobile payments exceeded $15.4 trillion
  • Completely dwarfing the US with $112 billion

There are four driving factors that are tipping the balance in China’s favour. Let’s take a closer look.

1. They Have More Data.

Easily China’s biggest advantage is the sheer abundance of data at their disposal. China’s e-commerce purchases are almost double that of the US.

WeChat alone, which is essentially just a messaging app has over 1 billion active users. China really has taken Big Data to the next level.

Alibaba and Tencent manage 92% of mobile transactions, whereas America has 14,000 financial institutions and 16 payment processors running different systems. Having all of your data in one place is a huge advantage for China.

China is essentially a cashless society. This means that WeChat Wallet and Alipay now have far more purchase data than anyone else on the planet. Data like this allows them to generate complex maps charting hundreds of millions of users’ every move.

Chinese companies are now creating in-depth maps of population movement. Giving them access to your gym schedule and work habits among other things.

Chinese tech companies are continuing to merge users’ online behaviour with their physical world. This data offers them a tremendous edge over their Silicon Valley counterparts.

2. Growing AI Expertise

Elite AI researchers still mostly reside in the US with tech giants like Google. However, that gap is narrowing fast.

Chinese AI technology researchers are already standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their American counterparts. At AAAI’s 2018 conference, an equal number of accepted papers came from US and China-based researchers.

Giants like Tencent are investing in emerging student talent by sponsoring scholarships and student labs, while other major players like Baidu, Didi, and Tencent have also set up their own research labs.

Image and face recognition AI technology Face++ is way out in front of their competitors beating the likes of Google, Microsoft and Facebook

Voice recognition software company iFlyTek is definitely outcompeting the likes of DeepMind and Facebook in natural-language processing. Remarkably, they have also managed to do this in their “second language” of English.

iFlyTek’s cutting edge AI technology could one day enable translation earpieces that translate speech into any language in an instant.

3. A Rise In Ambitious Entrepreneurs

Previously, China had gained a reputation for creating a wave of unoriginal and copycat products. This was a driving factor behind creating one of the most competitive landscapes for entrepreneurship in the world.

Entrepreneurs in China are more ruthless than their US counterparts. Going so far as to use smear tactics in order to outpace and overtake similar startups.

Former founder-director of Google Brain Andrew Ng said: “The velocity of work is much faster in China than in most of Silicon Valley. When you spot a business opportunity in China, the window of time you have to respond is very short.”

This level of competition breeds hard work. Entrepreneurs are now creating their own unique products, with no connection to the West. While also adapting to completely re-purpose American products to the Chinese market.

SenseTime, is now the most valuable AI technology startup up in the world.  They are the leading AR solution provider in China and world-class leaders in facial recognition technologies.

SenseTime has managed to create “smart glasses” which are put to use by the police force. These glasses connect to a feed which taps into China’s state database. This allows officers to identify potential criminals using facial recognition.

4. Government Support.

China’s government has already issued a plan to make China the global center of AI innovation. Aiming for a one trillion RMB (about $150 billion USD) AI industry by 2030.

In 2016, the US also released an AI strategic plan under the Obama Administration. This was designed to encourage ramped-up AI R&D.

The response within the AI community in America was mildly enthusiastic and received moderate news coverage. The difference in reaction to these announcements was vast.

In less than a year, Chinese Venture Capital investors surpassed the US in terms of global funding making up 48 per cent of the number worldwide.

Local officials are incentivised to lure in AI companies and entrepreneurs with subsidies and advantageous policies. Mayors across the country are building innovation zones and gaining government-backed VC funds. Covering rent and making a clear path for AI startups.

Beijing alone plans to invest $2 billion in an AI development park, which would house up to 400 AI enterprises. Even smaller cities like Xiong’an New Area have plans to build out entire AI cities in the next two decades.

Lastly, China’s AI giants  Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and iFlyTek have all come together as a sort of “national team.” The goal is to collaborate with national organizations in order to pioneer research and supercharge innovation.

Charging Ahead Of The Competition

No longer branded as Silicon Valley copycats, China’s AI community has moved far past that. They are backed by massive government funding and the worlds most driven entrepreneurs. This along with world-class research and infrastructure, China is undeniably well on its way to becoming world leaders in Artificial Intelligence.

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