China, ‘the factory of the world,’ is slowly striding into a new role in the international economy: an innovative hub for artificial intelligence operations. According to a study carried by Deepashri Varadharajan, China’s global AI funding which accounted for 48% of its AI startups surpassed the USA the previous year.
The question on every reader’s mind is: how did China swiftly vault into the top echelons of states in AI? As you have probably heard, China seeks to become the global leader in the development of AI technology and theory come 2030. So how did China reach such levels of authority and how is it fairing in the global AI race?
Presently, China is using its big tech giants – Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent to bring in advanced smart city solutions, predictive healthcare, autonomous driving, conversational AI, among other marvelous things. Not only is the country using its AI-centric companies to extend its AI offering to other countries, but it also keeps getting help from both the public and private sectors to achieve their 2030 vision.
How does China Fair in Comparison to Western Countries?
The huge gap that existed between the USA AI industries to that of China is closing fast in relation to publications, patents, and investments. Even though many AI experts suspect that China will face a struggle in recruiting professionals in this domain, China boasts of some upper hand which could be crucial in its envisioned supremacy.
To begin with, China has a robust government investment model which has spurred industrial investment. What’s more, China has fewer regulations that obstruct data usage and collection, which have proven to be very useful, especially in the realm of facial recognition. In other words, China can attribute its success to its government’s dedication to the enterprise and infrequent obstacles linked with data integrity and privacy. You can now clearly understand why the two AI startups with the greatest valuation- Yitu Technology (2.4 billion USD) and Sense Time (4.5 billion USD) have been successful in operations.
China’s AI Enterprise Development
By June 2018, 4,925 industries worldwide used AI products and technologies as part of their base operations. Of this, the Chinese had 1,011(20.5% of the total). So far Beijing tops the list with the greatest number of AI industries globally with a total of (397), followed by San Francisco with (287), and London (274).
Since the Chinese began engaging in the AI enterprise, they seem to focus on three senses: seeing, speaking, and hearing. Up until now, only three AI devices can live up to the caliber of full maturity- smart robots, drones, and smart speakers.
While many assume that the Chinese could be concocting a sinister plan to spy on them through tiny chips, Google appears to be dominating the smart speaker domain with a whopping 36.9% market share. Amazon follows next with a 27.7% market share while the Chinese’s Alibaba comes in at an 11.8% smart speaker market share.
DJI which stood as China’s most influential drone manufacturer in 2017 with revenue of more than $2.5 billion has a striking 50% market share in the North America drone business. Other Chinese drone producers like XAG, Zero Zero Robotics, Zerotech, and EHANG have become quite prominent.
Unbelievable as it may sound, many AI intellectuals suspects that China could be importing a majority of their industrial robots. In 2017, a survey made by Tsinghua University showed that China bought 141,000 industrial robots, of which three–quarters of that accounted for foreign brands, while 37,825 were locally manufactured. It looks like China still hasn’t dominated the industrial robot’s space yet.
The AI policy and Public Perception in China
According to the China AI development Report 2018, China has the highest number of AI policy documents (1,000+) when compared to other states like the USA (9), Germany (5), and the U.K (4). Locally, nobody seems to mind much about AI advancements. In fact , China citizens view AI as an important subject, of whom 53% support in–depth AI development. People learn on AI through the news, with older individuals (30 years+), and mostly men showing a great interest in the subject matter.
There appears to be a heavyweight battle between the USA and China in some areas of technology, and at some point, it seems like China is going to achieve its envisioned goal of 2030 sooner than anyone can imagine. Keep in mind that the Chinese have robust work ethics and a high tolerance for risk. Humanity has no other option but to sit back and await the mighty leader because as you know AI development doesn’t end here.
Victoria Liset is strategic business & technology consultant to SMEs. She helps businesses improve their performance by using data more efficiently, and helping them to understand the implications of new technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Big data, blockchain and IoT.