October 01, 2018
ROBLES Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to occupy an important role in Beijing’s ‘Made in China 2025’ blueprint. China wants to become a global leader in the field by 2030 and now has an edge in terms of academic papers, patents and both cross-border and global AI funding.
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 per cent of total equity funding of AI start-ups globally came from China, compared to 38 per cent funded by the US, and 13 per cent by the rest of the world. This is a significant jump from the 11.3 per cent of global funding China made in 2016.
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 in the world. There are good reasons to believe the country can make its vision of AI supremacy real.
CHINA’S AI PLAN
China has a three-step plan: firstly, it must be able to keep pace with all leading AI technology, and its application in general, by 2020. Part two is to make major breakthroughs by 2025, which is intended to lead to the third part of the plan – the establishment of China as the world leader in the AI field by 2030.
WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?
Systems with the ability to think for themselves and embrace different types of machine learning
Systems requiring minimal human intervention to learn from data to make accurate predictions
A type of machine learning capable of adapting itself to new data and training its systems to learn on their own and recognise patterns
HOW ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS APPLIED
Dermatology is among the first health disciplines to embrace AI. Using computer vision and AI analysis, software can identify 90 per cent of the 700 diseases most common among outpatients.
Although China has the world’s largest car market – both for conventional and electric vehicles – it still lags behind the US in developing driverless vehicles for the road. The Chinese government has set the goal of having a manufacturing industry in place for sensors and embedded chips with a value exceeding US$1.4 billion by 2020.
China makes more than 90 per cent of the world’s smartphones, 65 per cent of all personal computers and 67 per cent of smart televisions, according to Bernstein Research. But the country imports most of the chips for these devices, valued at US$260 billion last year.
China’s national banks are testing AI applications for wealth management and fraud prevention. China’s robo-advisory market – platforms that provide automated, algorithm-driven financial planning – is expected to be the world’s largest by 2020. Globally, the segment is expected to expand to US$6.5 trillion by 2025, from US$100 billion in 2016, according to McKinsey.
China is developing a facial recognition system with a database of 1.3 billion ID photos that can be matched in seconds, with an accuracy rate of 90 per cent. This programme may eventually power China’s Social Credit System: a metric to gauge the “trustworthiness” of citizens. Recently, SenseTime became the most valuable AI start-up in the world. The company drives China’s ambition to dominate global AI.
In 2017, 42 per cent of global e-commerce transactions took place in China, more than France, Germany, Japan, Britain, and the US combined. Big retailers have embraced online stores, which can recommend products and predict when users will need certain products based on their online history and behaviour. Alibaba drove US$25.3 billion of sales over 24 hours on Singles’ Day in 2017, due largely to AI, machine learning, and cloud computing. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese robot market is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 23.4 per cent in the four years to 2019, much faster than global shipment growth of 13 per cent, according to the International Federation of Robotics. China’s robot makers aim to supply 50 per cent of the domestic market by 2020, rising to 70 per cent by 2025.
HUMAN AND ROBOT WORKFLOW
Recent MIT research claims that groups of humans and robots working together are more efficient than teams of only humans, or just robots. When humans work alongside robots, the robots are able to reduce the amount of human idle time by 85 per cent.
AI START-UP VALUATION
There are more than 3,000 AI start-ups around the world, and counting. The US leads in quantity, followed by China, then Israel, Britain and Canada.
The Chinese AI industry has grown 67 per cent 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.
CHINA AI COMPANY DISTRIBUTION
EXAMPLES OF AI IN DAILY LIFE
AI is already present in many aspects of our daily activities. Here are some examples of AI and machine learning in everyday life:
China urges AI elites to unite in ‘global village’ – despite background of US-China trade war
Huawei launches advanced 7-nanometre smartphone chip ahead of Apple, Samsung
Drones, facial recognition and a social credit system: 10 ways China watches its citizens
How tensions with the West are putting the future of China’s Skynet mass surveillance system at stake
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