With many Chinese talents returning home, China gets set to overtake the U.S. in technology breakthroughs

Updated 2017-09-13 10:30:17 Global Times

A recent report by Goldman Sachs indicated that China has the resources and ambitious, high-level government plans to support artificial intelligence (AI) development and machine learning over the next few years. In the report, the investment bank identified four key factors for the growth of the AI industry - talent, data, infrastructure and computing power. By now, China already has the first three factors needed to fully embrace AI. Some talents who studied and worked overseas shared their stories with the Global Times to explain why they came back to China.

Wang Jianzong, AI Senior Director of Ping An Group, said he was not hesitant when he made the decision two years ago to come back to China after spending many years in the U.S.

Wang graduated with a PhD in computer science from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), Central China's Hubei Province, and then went on to Rice University in Texas as a visiting scholar in 2009. Afterward, he spent the next several years in the U.S. majoring in cloud computing research as well as artificial intelligence (AI) for his postdoctoral.

"I went to study in America because that's the birthplace of cloud computing. However, I came back as I hold optimistic views about China's AI prospective," Wang told the Global Times over the weekend.

While working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida, the 36-year-old man also accumulated academic and research experience in deep-learning study and medical analysis.

"I had faith in AI's future at that time," he said.

Wang is among many young Chinese talents in the information technology sector who choose to return to China after studying abroad for years.

In the first quarter of 2017, there were in total more than 1.9 million AI talents worldwide. Over 50,000 of them were created by China, according to a report released by the professional social network LinkedIn in July.

Compared with AI development in the U.S., China is now outsmarting in the quality and quantity of data, Wang said during the Artificial Intelligence Conference (AICC) held in Beijing on Thursday.

It was the first AI conference in China that attracted hundreds of participants including Chinese Internet giants ''BAT'' - Baidu Inc, Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings.

The industry is now embracing significant changes thanks to the central government's efforts to push forward AI development in China.

A giant market

Wang is now focusing on deep-learning study and applying technologies in different financial scenarios, such as anti-fraud efforts within insurance services, voice recognition and user profiling.

"Thanks to my experiences overseas, I have built a deep-learning team within Ping An," he said, noting that China now enjoys abundant AI data as well as powerful algorithm platforms.

Also, compared to the U.S., China has more open access to data, he opined.

AI's development over recent years has been driven by three fundamentals - high chip processing performance, data and algorithms.

A server's processing speed is now 60 times faster than it was two decades ago, and its high performance, in addition to abundant data amid Internet of Things, is supporting the AI boom in China.

Both the U.S. and Chinese governments have moved the AI industry to a strategic position recently. For example, the Obama administration rolled out several national plans to support the growing AI industry in 2016. And the U.S. government has become fully aware of AI's impact on society, including on employment, education, public safety, and national security.

The State Council, China's cabinet, 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 national AI technology market scale is expected to surpass 150 billion yuan ( billion) by then, and the related industry scale will be over 1 trillion yuan.

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