China leads AI Revolution starting from 2018
Author: Matej Balen
6th January 2018
BEIJING – China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently published a document on how to foster the development of artificial intelligence in China from 2018 to 2020. A detailed three-year action plan is essentially the top leadership’s vision for a new Chinese economy in the age of AI.

On December 20, president Xi announced that China will move away from mass production of low-end products and push forward high-quality development. In recent decades, a booming manufacturing sector in China, foreign trade and investment have helped bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, creating business empires and transforming Chinese society. But manufacturing growth is slowing, and the country is looking toward a future built around advanced technology.

The country is now embarking on an unprecedented effort to master artificial intelligence. China’s AI push includes an extraordinary commitment from the government, as it is planning to pour tens of billions of dollars into the technology in coming years, and companies are investing heavily in nurturing and developing AI talent. The plan is to match the AI levels developed in the West within three years, and later for China’s researchers to be making “major breakthroughs” by 2025.

This could easily mean that within 5-10 years - China could emerge as a leading force in AI, improving the productivity of its industries and helping it become leader in creating new businesses that leverage the technology.

There are good reasons to believe the country can make this vision real. In the early 2000s, the government said it wanted to build a high-speed rail network that would spur technological development and improve the country’s transportation system. By 2017, China officially had the most developed network and the fastest high-speed railway in the world.

China has some big advantages for development of AI. It has many talented engineers and scientists, many powerful computers and it is also rich in the data necessary to train AI systems. More than any other country in the world, China has a capability to gather huge databases of information necessary for machine-learning. The results can be seen in the growth of facial-recognition systems based on AI-technology: they now identify workers at offices and customers in stores, and they authenticate users of mobile apps.

The country’s leading tech companies, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, are currently hiring tons of AI experts, building new research centres, and investing in data centres that rival anything operated by Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. Money is also pouring into countless start-ups as Chinese entrepreneurs and investors see huge opportunities to incorporate AI in different industries.

And in recent months, there are more and more successful examples of that:, one of China's biggest online retailers, opened a logistics centre in Guangdong where 300 robots work non-stop on a 12 hundred square meter platform sorting parcels for delivery. These robots run automatically, transferring goods from storage shelves to packing areas. A staff members working there, say the robots can sort up to 12 thousand parcels per hour, which is four times faster than human sorters.


YITU Technology, Chinese tech firm, is another example. The company has developed facial recognition technology based on AI, which is soon expected to be adapted in service industries including security, medicine, and banking. For example, they are already testing the technology in Shanghai to enable people to withdraw money from an ATM just by showing up in front of the machines.

In Shenzhen, one tech company has developed 3 AI chips that have learning capabilities in such areas as smart driving, language processing, and image and voice recognition. Similar companies there are developing AI chips to be put into smart automobiles, robots and drones.

Beijing government has decided to build technology park for developing artificial intelligence. The park will be build within 5 years, covering 55 hectares with an estimated investment of about USD 2.1 billion. The park is expected to attract about 400 enterprises, with an estimated annual output value of about USD 7.7 billion. The park will focus on developing areas such as super high-speed big data, cloud computing, biometric identification and deep learning. Its technological infrastructure includes a fifth generation mobile network, a super computer and cloud services. The developer of the park, a company of Zhongguancun Development Group, will seek partnership with Chinese and overseas universities, research institutes and large companies to establish various research centres in the park, including a national-level artificial intelligence lab.

A few weeks ago, Beijing also launched a testing base for autopilot cars, 7-km long, equipped with intelligent transportation facilities, such as traffic lights and road signs to support the operation of autopilot cars based on AI technology.

A few days ago, Beijing's first driverless subway line was also opened to the public, 14.4-km Yanfang Line, which links Beijing's southwest suburbs to its urban district, and is the first fully domestically developed automated subway line on the Chinese mainland.

From "Made in China" to "Created in China," Chinese innovations are starting to light up the world through reshaping people's daily lives and investing heavily into R&D. AI technology is expected to be the leading force that will boost Chinese economic growth in the future, and is expected that in 2035 AI will generate 7 trillion dollars for Chinese economy, according to the experts.






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