China's leading technology companies are on fire, heavily investing in artificial intelligence and building true global presences. McKinsey recently reported that academic and research institutions in the country publish more cited research papers than the US, UK, or any other global leader in AI, producing nearly 10,000 papers in 2015 alone. Backed by strong government mandates and billions of dollars of both private and public investments, China is challenging the US for position of global AI leader. Fearful of competition, the US government is considering placing restrictions on Chinese investments in AI and technology in the United States. In many sectors, such as healthcare, China may already be ahead of America in applying AI to critical public issues.
China's research efforts in artificial intelligence (AI) began later than the U.S. and Europe. Early contributions in the 1970s included automated theorem proving, logic reasoning, search, and knowledge engineering. For example, Wen-tsün Wu is a pioneer in automated theorem proving. He received the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award in 2000, an honor bestowed on only 25 Chinese scientists across all fields to date. Bo Zhang and Ruqian Lu received the Life Achievement Award from the China Computer Federation (CCF) for their fundamental contributions respectively on problem solving and knowledge engineering.
In part 2 of China in AI, we look at how the biggest companies in China are positioning themselves to become global leaders in smart city solutions, autonomous driving, conversational AI, and predictive healthcare. China's internet may be sandboxed from the rest of the world, but China's big tech companies are bringing their AI capabilities to the global market. Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba (collectively called BAT) are positioning themselves to become the AI platforms of the future. Join us for a live briefing as we dive into the Chinese government's AI strategy, what tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent are doing, startup activity, and much more. Tencent, which runs WeChat, has access to over 1B users on its platform, while Baidu is the country's largest search provider, and Alibaba is its biggest e-commerce platform. In addition, all 3 offer services well beyond their core products, and like the biggest tech giants in the US have far-reaching global ambitions. BAT is expanding into other countries in Asia, recruiting US talent and investing in US AI startups, and forming global partnerships to advance smart city solutions, autonomous driving, conversational AI, and predictive healthcare, among other initiatives.
"As we move into 2017, Baidu's strategic evolution from a mobile-first to an AI-first company continues to gain momentum." There was a time when Baidu, Inc. (BIDU) was primarily a Chinese language Internet search provider, often dubbed as the'Google of China.' In recent years, Baidu embarked on a new journey that makes it a search, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous driving company that is working towards innovative, next-generation products and revenue streams. Baidu is leading the AI revolution in the mainland with huge investments, collaborations and acquisitions. AI technologies encompass deep learning, image recognition, computer vision, robotics, collaborative systems, machine learning and natural learning process, among other things.
Sören Schwertfeger finished his postdoctorate research on autonomous robots in Germany, and seemed set to go to Europe or the United States, where artificial intelligence was pioneered and established. Instead, he went to China. "You couldn't have started a lab like mine elsewhere," Mr. Schwertfeger said. The balance of power in technology is shifting. China, which for years watched enviously as the West invented the software and the chips powering today's digital age, has become a major player in artificial intelligence, what some think may be the most important technology of the future.