In January, Wall Street investors were optimistic tax cuts would sustain economic growth and the Trump bull market. As spring arrives, the world has proven decidedly more uncertain. The administration has not articulated end game goals for the trade standoff with China. President Xi Jinping is offering some concessions but his commitment to industrial policies that target vital American industries remains clear and menacing. An all-out trade war could disrupt global supply chains, nix planned investment spending, stall both economies and tank stocks.
Xi Jinping's bookshelf includes not only classics on communism but also works on artificial intelligence, as TV viewers spotted during his new year's speech this year. One of the books that helps the Chinese president understand AI is The Master Algorithm, a 2015 bestseller by Pedro Domingos. In a recent interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Domingos, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington, said that when he saw his book on Xi's bookshelf, he found it "both exciting and scary." Exciting because China is developing rapidly, and there are all sorts of ways the Chinese and the rest of the world can benefit from AI. Scary because this is an authoritarian government, going full tilt on using AI to control their population. In fact, what we are seeing now is just the beginning.
To the right, young software engineers sit in front of their laptops in the windowless, artificially lit rooms. To the left, computer science professor Pedro Domingos opens the door to his office, which has a view of the massive trees on campus. Domingos' book "The Master Algorithm," about the technology of artificial intelligence (AI), made him famous and is also considered a standard reference work. The best-selling book, published in 2015, describes how machines that can learn are changing our everyday lives -- from the social networks and science to business and politics and right up to the way modern wars are waged. The book drew praise from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Recently, a third prominent figure noted that he'd read the book: Chinese President Xi Jinping. When state television broadcast his new year's speech this year, viewers discovered that next to Marx's "Capital" and "Selected Works" by Mao Zedong, he also has a copy of "The Master Algorithm" on his bookshelf. "The book is much read in China," says Domingos. "That's probably why Xi and his people became aware of it.
A Chinese fugitive was arrested after an AI-powered facial recognition system alerted authorities to his presence in a crowd of 60,000 people attending a pop concert. Welcome to the age of robot snitches. Wanted for "economic crimes," the 31 year-old man was reportedly surprised when police apprehended him. He'd traveled nearly 100 km (about 60 miles) with his wife and friends to attend the event, a concert headlined by Cantopop star Jacky Cheung, before authorities nabbed him on a tip from a venue camera. Chinese authorities have entirely embraced facial recognition systems and AI-powered surveillance monitoring.
China has retaliated quickly against proposed United States penalties on Chinese goods and announced 25 percent tariffs on critical American exports, including soya beans, aeroplanes and cars. On Tuesday, the administration of President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on $50bn in Chinese imports across 1,300 categories of products, ranging from industrial robots to locomotives. Beijing's response came hours after the US revealed its plans, with China's foreign ministry saying in a statement that "America's measures to impose tariffs have violated the rules of the World Trade Organisation, and have seriously violated China's legal rights". Soya beans are the top US agricultural export to China and were among the 106 products on which China intends to impose the additional tariffs. The US is the second-biggest soya bean supplier to China, after Brazil.
Samsung Electronics has begun construction of its second semiconductor line in Xi'an, China. The South Korean tech giant will invest $7 billion in the new line that is expected to be completed next year. It will produce V-NAND memory chips, which are in very high demand from Chinese vendors. The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build the line back in August, 2017, with Shanxi Province. Samsung began building its first chip line in Xi'an -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's hometown -- back in 2012.
China isn't just investing heavily in AI--its experts aim to set the global standards for the technology as well. Academics, industry researchers, and government experts gathered in Beijing last November to discuss AI policy issues. The resulting document, published in Chinese recently, shows that the country's experts are thinking in detail about the technology's potential impact. Together with the Chinese government's strategic plan for AI, it also suggests that China plans to play a role in setting technical standards for AI going forward. Chinese companies would be required to adhere to these standards, and as the technology spreads globally, this could help China influence the technology's course.
Long lines and lengthy waits for round after round of security checks are di rigueur at major events in China such as the annual meetings of its legislature. That may change in the near future with the use of facial recognition to red-flag people for further screening while allowing others to proceed, speeding up the process of letting thousands of delegates, journalists and staff into the Great Hall of the People, according to Baidu CEO Robin Li Yanhong, whose company is testing such a system at airports. "The measures to verify identification, such as the tight security checks during the Two Sessions, have brought inconvenience to people's lives," said Li, who is a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "Most of the time, people's identification is done manually, which I think will be completely unnecessary in the future," he told mainland Chinese media ahead of the event. Li's comments highlight the growing use of facial recognition in security applications in China, part of the nation's wider push to lead the world in artificial intelligence and a desire by the central government to improve public safety through surveillance of citizens.
LAHORE – The Communist Party of China's (CPC) decision this week to eliminate presidential term limits seems to open the door for President Xi Jinping to be not just "Chairman of Everything," but also "Chairman Forever." The move has been met with dismay around the world, but it has also intensified an ongoing debate among China experts over whether the biggest threat to China is too much executive power, or too little.
One of the most important jobs of any national leader is to quit. National liberation heroes, from George Washington to Nelson Mandela, who stepped down without being forced to, ought to be venerated for that as much as for any good they accomplished while in office. Generally, rulers do not give up power unless they have to. In Africa, peaceful transfers of power are rare enough that a billionaire has set up a generous annual prize to reward leaders who step down voluntarily; many years it goes unclaimed. Around the world, cases like Bashar al-Assad, willing to watch his country crumble rather than give up power over it, or Robert Mugabe, forced out by his own military after 47 years, are more common.