China to become AI technology leader in 10 years: study

China to become AI technology leader in 10 years: study
While the Asia Pacific (APAC) region tends to lag behind North America or Europe in terms of technology adoption, the region is forecast to become the leader of artificial intelligence (AI) technology within the next decade, with China being the main driver of the technological advancement, according to Tractica’s research.
China is shifting from a manufacturing-led economy toward an innovation-driven economy, to become a science and technology superpower, with AI at the core of the transformation. “China has the resources, willingness and drive to propel APAC as a leading AI region,” says the Artificial Intelligence in Asia Pacific whitepaper.
The New Generation AI Development Plan launched by the Chinese government is one of the boldest and broadest national AI strategies the world has ever seen. According to the plan, China aims to: 1) catch up with its AI capabilities by 2020; 2) make 2025 a mid-point when it hopes to lead in some AI fields; and 3) become the world’s primary AI innovation center by 2030.
Besides Beijing’s top-down directive, an ecosystem of local governments, private companies and academic labs are also striving independently toward realizing the AI dream. For example, the city of Tianjin has made available a US$5 billion fund to support AI startups and entrepreneurs. “This level of local support from the ground up is unprecedented in any other country or geography,” Tractica says.
While China makes most of the headlines, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan and Singapore have also switched gear to focus on AI development, with all of them announcing national AI strategies. Rather than competing with China, they will build on their strengths and find their own niches in the field of AI.
Tractica noted that while collaborating with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan manufacture most of the global supply of electronics. “With AI processing moving from the cloud to the edge device, APAC, with its expertise in electronics and industrial processes, should be in a good position to reap the benefits.”
AI is about analyzing big data. Today user data is mostly collected by North American Internet companies. However, the APAC region holds more than half of the world’s population. If data from over 4.5 billion people in the region can be fed into the database, “it would create one of the world’s most powerful AI systems,” Tractica notes.
U.S. now leads in AI research and development
For now the U.S. still leads in AI research and development. The U.S. has 1,000 academic institutions that are researching AI, while China has only 600. The U.S. and Canada have more than 3,000 researchers who had presentations in AI conference, while China has about 200.
The U.S. is still considered one of the prime destinations for AI researchers, who after studying in China or Europe largely end up in the U.S. for professional work, according to the Element AI report.
Talent is critical to AI R&D, but the number of AI professionals in China and APC, in general, are short of what is required to be competitive in the AI sector. North America has more than 10,000 AI professionals, while China and India collectively have about 1,000, according to Element AI. The supply of talent is linked to the number of universities and research labs, which in China is far below what is required to be competitive. There is also the problem of inward flow of talent from other countries, which is completely missing in China and the APAC region.
Today AI development work – which involves building AI models, services, software and hardware – is mostly concentrated in the U.S. In other words, the country provides a “full stack” AI solution. However, as technological development progresses, the APAC region as a whole will be able to do the same in the future.
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