China has mapped out plans to be the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, challenging U.S. dominance in the field by building a homegrown industry worth nearly $150 billion.
The plans were disclosed amid escalating international tensions over the technology’s military applications, along with AI’s increasing importance in anything from smart cars and energy to computing.
AI Development Roadmap
Late Thursday, July 20, the State Council in Beijing released the country’s AI development plan, Reuters reported. It aims to grow domestic AI industries to more than 150 billion yuan or $22.2 billion by 2020 and 400 billion yuan or $59.1 billion by 2025.
With the major push into AI dominance, China eyes rival American market leaders that include Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft Corp.
“The local and central government are supporting this AI effort. They see this trend coming and they want to invest more,” said Rui Yong, chief technology officer of computer maker Lenovo Group, during an AI conference held in Shanghai on the day of the announcement.
Two professors who consulted with the government on the initiative said that China’s focus will be on moonshot projects, startups, and academic research in the field, and would be targeted to support medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, and homeland security, to name a few.
They told the New York Times that among the main impetuses for the plan was the 2016 loss of South Korean champion Lee Se-dol in the board game Go, created by Google’s AlphaGo. Back in May, Google brought AlphaGo to China, where it also defeated top-ranking Chinese player Ke Jie in an event that did not go through live broadcast in the country.
What The US Is Likely To Do
The United States, on the other hand, is also slated to revisit its investments in areas such as AI, where nations such as China are feared to have access to the technology governing military strategy and surveillance.
The U.S. defense department has also recently found that Chinese funds have been flowing into American AI firms, some of which are believed to help America build its future weapons and defense systems.
Meanwhile, the United States has slashed its science budget, cutting back on resources for a number of agencies traditionally involved in AI research.
If things go well for China, its final-stage plan estimated to happen by 2030 will position the country to become the “premier artificial intelligence innovation center” worldwide.
Serious commitments are already leading to this direction, where the local government of Tianjin, for instance, expressed plans to allot $5 billion to support AI and form an “intelligence industry zone” on a 20-square-kilometer land.