On July 20, China's State Council issued the "Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan" (新一代人工智能发展规划), which articulates an ambitious agenda for China to lead the world in AI. China intends to pursue a "first-mover advantage" to become the "premier global AI innovation center" by 2030. Through this new strategic framework, China will advance a "three in one" agenda in AI: tackling key problems in research and development, pursuing a range of products and applications, and cultivating an AI industry. The Chinese leadership thus seeks to seize a "major strategic opportunity" to advance its development of AI, potentially surpassing the United States in the process. This new plan, which will be implemented by a new AI Plan Promotion Office within the Ministry of Science and Technology, outlines China's objectives for advances in AI in three stages.
The present global verve about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies has resonated in China as much as anywhere on earth. With the State Council's issuance of the "New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan" (新一代人工智能发展规划) on July 20, China's government set out an ambitious roadmap including targets through 2030. Meanwhile, in China's leading cities, flashy conferences on AI have become commonplace. It seems every mid-sized tech company wants to show off its self-driving car efforts, while numerous financial tech start-ups tout an AI-driven approach. Chatbot startups clog investors' date books, and Shanghai metro ads pitch AI-taught English language learning.
Bottom Line: China's nationwide pursuit to become the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) is an attempt to not only match U.S. economic power, but to bypass it geo-strategically. While Beijing's involvement is spurred by economic ambitions, it has made it clear that the development of AI will simultaneously be for military applications that could change the character of warfare and place the U.S. at a geopolitical disadvantage.
Chinese artificial-intelligence startup CloudWalk Technology signed a deal in March with the Zimbabwean government, providing the authoritarian regime an advanced facial-recognition system that it can use to identify, track, and monitor citizens. In exchange, CloudWalk gains access to the facial data of the demographically distinct country, which provides the company much-needed data for improving its recognition algorithms. Arrangements such as this are common under China's Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, whereby Chinese private and state-controlled companies take advantage of the weak legal systems and low privacy standards of developing nations as part of the country's effort to become a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. But the vision of artificial intelligence that China is creating is a thoroughly illiberal one. Constant surveillance of citizens is powering initiatives such as the Social Credit System, which will rate citizens on their social and economic performance, increasing the power of the state to enforce its cultural vision.