The world's second-largest economy, China, is en route to achieving great things in the next decade and a half. Projections suggest that by 2032, the Chinese Republic will overtake the United States and become the largest economy in the world. This is a far cry from the China of the '70s before which it was a largely agrarian society. After the introduction of economic reforms in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping and the reopening of Shanghai Stock Market in 1990, China evolved into an industrial powerhouse and its economy started expanding at a brisk pace, averaging growth rates of nearly 10 per cent for almost three decades. Though the benefits of growth in GDP did trickle down to the public as wages and subsequently living standards received a considerable bump, it was largely the Communist Party-controlled state machinery and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that enjoyed the fruits of China's meteoric growth.
China has recently announced their long-term goal to become #1 in A.I. by 2030. They plan to grow their A.I. industry to over $22 billion by 2020, $59 billion by 2025 and $150 billion by 2030. They did this same type of long-term strategic planning for robotics – to make it an in-country industry and to transform the country from a low-cost labor source to a high-tech manufacturing resource, and it's working. With this major strategic long-term push into A.I., China is looking to rival U.S. market leaders such as Alphabet/Google, Apple, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft. China is keen not to be left behind in a technology that is increasingly pivotal -- from online commerce to self-driving vehicles, energy, and consumer products.
The primary thrust among global commentators last week was on dissecting and analysing the State of the Union address delivered by President Donald Trump. He tried to reach out to an American public exhausted by divisive politics and a waning faith in the American dream. The general sense was that it was a half-hearted call for unity. The focus of this column is on a global disruption in technology that is having a major impact on national and international security thinking, the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 21st Century.
The Sino-American relationship has been quite a roller coaster this year, courtesy of the belligerent occupant of the White House. With its technical and operational superiority in 5G mobile networks (the vital infrastructure for technologies like A.I. and the Internet of Things), Huawei might be an avatar for China itself: ambitious, future-focused, and a serious threat to U.S. exceptionalism. The deluge of American complaints about Huawei being a national security risk (due to its links to the Chinese state) should be recognized for what it is: cover for the United States to engage in economic warfare, throwing its significant weight around to help ensure Huawei is blacklisted across the globe. The desperation of the U.S. efforts reflects a cold truth about the international competition in technology, and A.I. in particular: China is opening up a lead. Following their public commitment in 2017 to develop world leadership in A.I. by 2030, China has backed up its strategy with several billion dollars' worth of funding and a cohesive bureaucratic effort to manage the plan's execution.