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China This Week: Google Announces AI Center in China

Dec 18 , 2017

Timing is everything. Mere days after Google CEO Sundar Pichai's surprise appearance at China's annual internet conference, Google announced that it is opening a research center in China dedicated to studying artificial intelligence (AI). AI, "in a sense, is already here. It's in online search engines, the computer opponents in video games, the spam filter in our emails, and the Siri assistant in our iPhones," wrote China-US Focus contributor, Shaun Tan. However, it is AI's limitless potential that has Google - a company that pulled out of China in 2010 due to the government's moves to censor it - slowly but surely building back up its presence in the region. According to a Bloomberg report, the center, which is the first of its kind in Asia, will be used to attract top talent from the region in what is quickly becoming the world's most competitive technology sector.

The Chinese government is committed to becoming a world leader in AI by 2030. Through a development plan worth almost $150 billion dollars, China has already laid the foundation for a booming AI industry. By contrast, the United States is lagging behind in this ground-breaking sector. Significant cuts to science and technology research funding by the Trump administration have slowed down development and damaged U.S. competitiveness in this sector. Although many in the U.S claim that Chinese laws are "forcing" technological bilateral transfers, China-US Focus contributor Justin Lau argued that the blame falls on "weak global demands for their cutting-edge technologies, not the Chinese government." The culmination of funding cuts in the U.S., China's unwavering AI ambitions, and the flooding of funds to the AI sector has placed China on the fast track to leading AI research globally.

While Google's decision is a small move in the grand scheme of global technology development, it is certainly significant. Now the world may turn to China for the top artificial intelligence experts, and in the future, the latest technological breakthroughs may stem from Beijing.

For the latest issue of China This Week, an exclusive weekly review and analysis of major trends and developments impacting the China-U.S. relations, please visit here.

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