China leads AI research with talent, Big Data infrastructure

Updated 2017-09-08 09:00:36 Global Times
taff workers are seen at a big data demonstration center of Guizhou Shuanglong Airport Economic Zone in southwest China's Guizhou Province, May 16, 2017. The 2017 China international big data industry expo will be held in Guiyang at the end of May.

taff workers are seen at a big data demonstration center of Guizhou Shuanglong Airport Economic Zone in southwest China's Guizhou Province, May 16, 2017. The 2017 China international big data industry expo will be held in Guiyang at the end of May.

AI industry growth driven by government guidelines, market

China is blessed with abundant talent and the Big Data infrastructure to lead the development of artificial intelligence (AI), though it still lags behind industry leaders in producing central processing chips.

Experts said China's AI industry has been driven by Big Data, algorithm and application scenarios, as various mobile apps have already been tested by the market.

Top policymakers are encouraging further development of the AI industry, which is attracting investment in both hardware and software, Hu Leijun, vice president of Chinese information technology firm Inspur, told the Global Times during the AI Computing Conference held in Beijing on Thursday.

Companies in China have accumulated much experience in computing sciences, Hu noted.

"Although the US started work on core technologies such as central processing units and graphic processing units earlier than us, the Chinese market, which is application-driven, has more potential," he said.

The State Council, China's central government, unveiled new guidelines for the development of the AI industry in July, which it hopes will motivate the sector to reach the same level as other advanced countries in terms of technology and applications by 2020. Also, the market scale is expected to surpass 150 billion yuan ( billion) by then, and the related industry scale will be over 1 trillion yuan.

The AI application scenarios are diversified in China, ranging from medical and consumer services, to transport and finance.

A new report from Goldman Sachs indicated that China has the resources, ambitious plans and high-level government plans to support AI and machine learning over the next few years, CNBC reported on September 1.

The investment bank identified four key factors for the growth of AI industry - talent, data, infrastructure and computing power, and now China has the first three factors needed to fully embrace AI.

The average Internet user will generate about 1.5 GB of information traffic every day by 2020, so this huge database provides abundant resources for practicing different algorithms, Zhao Nan, a manager from Intel's Great China unit, said at the conference. "AI is transformative, and when used in more sectors it can be disruptive," he said.

Pros and cons

However, Goldman noted that China had been "heavily dependent on foreign suppliers" for processing chips, according to CNBC's report.

"In the general semiconductor sector, China has lagged behind the US for years, but now we see the country is catching up in some chip processing sectors such as voice recognition and image processing," Yang Guangwen, director of the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times.

Some Chinese companies said they will benefit from the country's AI boom. Chinese Internet giant Tencent handles huge amounts of data every day, which will help the company further explore machine learning technology. And its cloud services will enable more small- and medium-sized enterprises to work on AI technologies such as facial recognition and voice procession, noted a PR representative from Tencent.

"In addition, the number of research papers about AI conducted by ethnic Chinese now accounts for up to 40 percent of the total volume, and more and more talented people return to China for this huge market," she said.

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