On Thursday the Chinese government announced plans(in Chinese) to match the US in AI research by 2020 and become the world’s leader in the field by 2030. According to the plan China will grow its domestic AI industry to $22 billion by 2020, $60 billion annually by 2025 and will and will ramp up to $150 billion by 2030.
Artificial intelligence is now seen as one of the rising industries along with renewable energy, robotics and electric cars that China believes will enable it to transition to a fully developed economy in the coming decades and away from low-cost manufacturing.
With this new initiative China is hoping that its domestic champions such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent will be able compete against the America’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook and eventually dominate the coming AI revolution.
While China is increasing its research and development funding by billions annually the Trump administration’s budget is proposing slashing government funding for AI and supercomputing research. Many in the US congress however have indicated that they will oppose the proposed cuts.
According to the New York Times American companies dominance of AI has been a kind of Sputnik moment for China’s leaders. China’s leaders were shocked by the defeat last year of Lee Sedol by Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo and its defeat in May of the Chinese Go champion Ke Jie. The live video of the match of AlphaGo vs. Ke Jie was blocked by Chinese censors.
Earlier this year Chinese Premier Li Keqiang named AI a ‘strategic technology’, and and the new plan states:
“By 2030, our country will reach a world leading level in artificial intelligence theory, technology and application and become a principal world center for artificial intelligence innovation,”
This plan may serve as a wake up call among US policymakers and business leaders that the US government and corporations are going to have to respond if they wish to retain their position at the top of the AI pack.