Last year, China’s chief governing body announced an ambitious scheme for the country to become a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) technology by 2030. The Chinese State Council, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, detailed a series of intended milestones in AI research and development in its ‘New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’, with the aim that Chinese AI will have applications in fields as varied as medicine, manufacturing and the military.
These AI ambitions, made public in July 2017, came as little surprise. ‘Innovation’ has been a favourite buzzword of China’s leadership for several years, as the country seeks to transition from a production powerhouse to a centre of knowledge creation.
But China’s AI aspirations are as economic as they are political, coming at a historic stall in the country’s previously rapid growth — in 2016, the economy grew at its slowest rate since 1990. By 2020, the State Council’s plan forecasts, the value of China’s core AI industries should have exceeded 150 billion yuan (US$22.7 billion), and the total for all related industries should be 1 trillion yuan. By 2030, it is hoped those figures will be 1 trillion yuan and 10 trillion yuan, respectively.
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