Chinese vice-premier Liu He called on the world to work together to address complex ethical, legal and other questions raised by artificial intelligence as he kicked off a gathering in Shanghai bringing together the globe’s AI elites.
“As members of a global village, I hope countries can show inclusive understanding and respect to each other, deal with the double-sword technologies can bring, and together embrace AI,” said Liu, a highly influential official who has been China’s top trade negotiator in the US-China trade war and is also on the country’s technology development committee.
The star-studded World Artificial Intelligence Conference, which opened Monday morning, comes as China has emerged as one of the world’s top players in AI, which promises to revolutionise everything from health care to driving to policing.
China is already attracting 70 per cent of the US$39.5 billion raised worldwide for AI investments, and its ambitions have drawn the concern of US President Donald Trump.
Betting big on the core technology behind an array of cutting-edge applications from autonomous driving to facial recognition, China’s State Council last July laid out a three-step road map to AI supremacy. It included the goals of building a domestic AI industry worth about US$150 billion and to make the country an “innovation centre for AI” by 2030.
Expected powerhouses at the conference held on the west bank of the Huangpu River include Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma Yun, Tencent Holdings chairman Pony Ma Huateng, Baidu co-founder and entrepreneur Robin Li Yanhong and Google vice-president Jay Yagnik.
The conference is co-organised by the country’s top economic planning and technology brain pool, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Liu called for a ramp up in investment in artificial intelligence research and cross-border collaboration
“We will strengthen investment in fundamental research and encourage ‘zero-to-one’ original research,” said Liu, referring to radically new technological developments. “As an intellectual property intensive industry, China will enhance efforts to defend IP protection.”
China is developing AI in an “open environment” and encourages companies across the world to partake in the “immense market” and form intensive collaboration at the corporate and research institute level, Liu added.
Liu’s remarks echoed a congratulatory letter from President Xi Jinping, where he reiterated the importance of dialogue in the age of AI.
“The new generation of AI is in a rising boom,” said Xi in the letter read at the event by Shanghai party chief Li Qiang. “It requires deepened collaboration and open dialogues among countries to deal with new subjects such as legislation, security, employment and governance.”
Still, the appeal for collaboration comes as the country has been playing down rhetoric on its ambition for global leadership in advanced technologies amid a trade war with the US.
The Trump administration has also taken aim at the country’s technological ambitions, laid out in a “Made in China 2025” plan that is intended to guide the country’s industrial modernisation.
“China has made some achievement in the development of AI, but there remains a gap in general compared to advanced level,” Liu said.
Liu called for market driven development and a more favourable environment for private and small-to-medium sized enterprises, which contribute a significant part to the development of AI.
He expects AI to have a broad impact on agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors, citing research that about 70 per cent of companies across the world will adopt AI technologies by 2030.