China’s success in AI industry is driven by its strengths and flaws

China’s support and focus for the emerging AI industry, as well as its goal of becoming a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, comes from a source that the country takes very seriously — government policy. Thus, China’s possible domination of the AI sphere within the next 12 years could be the result of the nation using its strengths and weaknesses as a means to propel itself into the forefront of intelligent tech.

Kai-Fu Lee, an AI investor that helps tech startups get off the ground through his $1.8-billion dual-currency venture fund Sinovation Ventures, recently noted in a statement to WIRED that China’s goal of becoming the world leader in AI-driven solutions by 2030 is achievable because the target is literally a policy from the state. 

According to Lee, China’s government has the capability to implement policies that are followed to a fault by both the country’s citizens and its business sector. The AI investor also noted that this system is difficult to replicate in other countries trying to dominate the AI field, such as the United States, due to the West’s democracy-driven nature.

Ultimately, however, the AI investor noted that China’s biggest driver for its AI initiative might lie in the size of its population and its citizens’ willingness to trade personal privacy for convenience or safety. In the Asian country, AI companies that gather data from the populace work without much protest from consumers, and largely operate within the approval of the state. 

Just recently, an AI startup, SenseTime, received an additional $600 million in funding from investors, giving the company a total valuation of $4.5 billion. One of SenseTime’s most impressive solutions is its surveillance tech, which is being used by the security bureau of Guangzhou as a means to aid law enforcement. A screenshot of one of SenseTime’s surveillance solutions could be viewed below.  


SenseTime’s AI surveillance solutions. [Credit: SenseTime/YouTube]

“AI is run on data as fuel and China has so much more data than any other country. Chinese users are willing to trade their personal privacy data for convenience or safety. It’s not an explicit process, but it’s a cultural element,” Lee noted.

The United States and China are currently head-to-head in the AI race. The United States has a headstart on the Asian country, but China is rapidly catching up. According to the AI investor, the most significant danger for the United States is its complacency. 

“Chinese entrepreneurs know everything about what’s happening in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley people, a few of them know a lot about China; some of them know a little bit about China; most of them know nothing about China,” Lee said.

China is showing no signs of slowing down its AI initiatives. Earlier this year, China announced plans to construct a massive $2.1-billion tech park in Beijing. The nearly 55-hectare tech park is expected to host up to 400 businesses from various bleeding-edge technologies, including biometrics, high-speed big data, and cloud computing, and of course, artificial intelligence.

China’s success in AI industry is driven by its strengths and flaws
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