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    China Becoming AI Superpower

    Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technology became a pivotal discussion at (WEF).  
    Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to occupy an important role in Beijing daily settings, and one of China's 2030 important blueprint. China wants to be a global leader in this particular field by 2030. China has an edge in terms of academic researchers, patents, cross-border boot camps, and AI investment. 

    In 2017, China published its “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”, which laid out plans to ultimately become the world leader in artificial intelligence, with a domestic AI industry worth almost US$150 billion. The first step of that plan is to catch up with the US on AI technology and applications by 2020. China now dominates AI funding. Last year, 48 percent of total equity funding of AI start-ups globally came from China, compared to 38 percent funded by the US, and 13 percent by the rest of the world. This is a significant jump from the 11.3 percent of global funding China made in 2016. 

    China’s AI race

    The Chinese AI industry has grown 67 percent over the past year and produced more patents and research papers than the US. This is despite having access to about a fifth of America’s talent pool. China also has an edge over the US on applying AI technology to specific areas such as unmanned retail and medical diagnosis.

    Top business leaders are attending at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland are monitoring China’s slowly growing economy, but they are eager to make another point: China has taken the lead on the artificial intelligence revolution. Blackstone chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, who travels frequently to Asia, said he sees an explosion of new AI businesses in China. “When I go to China, there’s almost an endless stream of people who are showing up developing new companies. The venture business there in AI-oriented companies is really exploding with growth,” Schwarzman said on a panel.

    The Chinese government has made tech dominance a priority in its “Made in China 2025” plan. Chinese leaders are pouring government money into AI research and development in a scientific push that has been compared to the space race or the Manhattan Project that the U.S. government-funded during World War II to develop a nuclear weapon. There are concerns that the United States is falling behind, and executives might not even realize it. [Japanese Prime Minister takes swipe at Trump in Davos] For the first time this year, consulting firm PwC used its annual CEO survey to ask global business leaders whether they thought AI would have a larger impact than the Internet. Eighty-four percent of Chinese executives said AI would be bigger than the Internet, while 38 percent of American executives said the same. The startling difference in views about AI surprised consultants at PwC who said attitudes are rarely this divergent among the nearly 1,400 global executives they survey each year.

    “It’s rare you get that big of a difference between two superpowers,” said Tim Ryan, U.S. chair of PwC. “It tells us we [in the United States] probably need to make sure we’re thinking about it the right way because you saw a very big difference between our two countries on that question.”

    Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent budded as 'BAT' are three Chinese tech giants and AI leaders.  
    The survey asked executives how widely they had deployed AI initiatives in their company. China was by far the leader with a quarter of Chinese business leaders saying AI was utilized on a wide scale at their firm. Only 5 percent of U.S. executives said the same. Most American companies are running AI pilot projects, Ryan said, but they haven’t scaled the initiatives up in the way the Chinese have.

    The United States isn’t investing as much money in China into AI, which might explain some of the difference, PwC said, but there are also ethical and skills challenges to work through before widespread adoption. “I would say the U.S. has the potential to fall behind if the CEOs and the education and the government don’t start doing more to actually do the upskilling,” said Bob Moritz, PwC chairman.

    Executives from the world’s leading tech companies urged business leaders to focus more on AI. The U.S. government has mostly focused on AI from a military context. The Pentagon announced in June that it was establishing a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center that will spend $1.75 billion over six years, but experts say it’s a small fraction of the scope of China’s investments. “The ability to apply AI to every industry, every company is going to new lines of revenue.

     It’s going to increase operating efficiency,” said Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. “To the extent, you are not embracing it now, you are slowing down the ability to actually continue to scale in any market globally." Liang Hua, chair of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, told a small group of reporters that “computer power will be the new electricity” and that his company had recently released a “cost-effective” AI chip and was working on other AI and machine-learning initiatives.

    “This is the start of a revolution that’s going to change enormous amounts of things from the workplace, jobs, what people do, development of knowledge in the absolute. It’s very exciting,” Schwarzman said.  In the early 2000s, China began to build a high-speed rail network that the government said would spur technological development and improve the country’s transportation system. 

    This train network is now one of the most advanced on the planet. There are good reasons to believe the country can make its vision of AI supremacy a reality. China’s AI Plan got three-steps: Firstly, it must be able to keep pace with all leading AI technologies, and its application in general context, by 2020. In Part two is to make major breakthroughs by 2025, which is intended to lead to the third part of the plan – the establish Chinese soft power as the world leader in the AI field by 2030.

    (1) 2020 - Competitive in AI: Focus on big data intelligence, Autonomous intelligence systems, Cross-medium intelligence, Swarm intelligence, Hybrid enhanced intelligence and AI Foundational theories.  (2) 2025 - Breakthrough: AI in medicine, City infrastructure, manufacturing, Agriculture, AI laws and regulations, Security assessment and control and Technical capabilities. (3) 2030 - Become World Leader: Focus on social governance, National defence AI integration and Industrial value chain.

    Moritz said China, in particular, has a lot at stake if the AI revolution causes mass unemployment at factories. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com already has a vast warehouse outside Shanghai that is almost entirely operated by robots. China has built factory towns that could become ghost towns. But the Huawei executive said his country can deal with those ramifications by creating new jobs. “While definitely, AI will play an important role in future society, we shouldn’t overstate that role,” Hua said. “Human beings will do what they are good at, and machines will also do what they are good at. It takes close collaboration between human beings and machines to achieve progress.”

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