Advanced AI is currently pretty much a duopoly between the USA and China. The US is the clear leader, thanks largely to its tech giants – Google, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. China also has a fistful of tech giants – Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are the ones usually listed, but the Chinese government has also taken a strong interest in AI since Deep Mind’s Alpha Go system beat the world’s best Go player in 2016.
People in the West don’t know enough about China’s current and future role in AI. Some think its companies just copy their Western counterparts, while others think it is an implacable and increasingly dangerous enemy, run by a dictator who cares nothing for his people. Both those views are wrong.
One person who has been trying to provide a more accurate picture of China and AI in recent years is Jeff Ding, the author of the influential newsletter ChinAI.
Jeff grew up in Iowa City and is now an Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He earned a PhD at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and wrote his thesis on how past technological revolutions influenced the rise and fall of great powers, with implications for U.S.-China competition. After gaining his doctorate he worked at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.
Selected follow-up reading:
Topics in this conversation include:
*) The Thucydides Trap: Is conflict inevitable as a rising geopolitical power approaches parity with an established power?
*) Different ways of trying to assess how China's AI industry compares with that of the U.S.
*) Measuring innovations in creating AI is different from measuring adoption of AI solutions across multiple industries
*) Comparisons of papers submitted to AI conferences such as NeurIPS, citations, patents granted, and the number of data scientists
*) The biggest misconceptions westerners have about China and AI
*) A way in which Europe could still be an important player alongside the duopoly
*) Attitudes in China toward data privacy and facial recognition
*) Government focus on AI can be counterproductive
*) Varieties of government industrial policy: the merits of encouraging decentralised innovation
*) The Titanic and the origin of Silicon Valley
*) Mariana Mazzucato's question: "Who created the iPhone?"
*) Learning from the failure of Japan's 5th Generation Computers initiative
*) The evolution of China's Social Credit systems
*) Research by Shazeda Ahmed and Jeremy Daum
*) Factors encouraging and discouraging the "splinternet" separation of US and Chinese tech ecosystems
*) Connections that typically happen outside of the public eye
*) Financial interdependencies
*) Changing Chinese government attitudes toward Chinese Internet giants
*) A broader tension faced by the Chinese government
*) Future scenarios: potential good and bad developments
*) Transnational projects to prevent accidents or unauthorised use of powerful AI systems
Music: Spike Protein, by Koi Discovery, available under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration