China Prepares for the AI revolution

China knows artificial intelligence is rewriting the geopolitical rules, but the rest of the world looks unprepared

In October 2017, President Xi Jinping laid out a bold plan at the Communist Party’s 19th National Party Congress, citing artificial intelligence, big data and the internet as central technologies that would transform China into an advanced economy over the coming decades.

It was the crystalisation of an ambitious strategy, in part triggered by the collective trauma endured on May 27 of that year when the AI system AlphaGo triumphed over Chinese Go master Ke Jie.

As Kai-Fu Lee writes in AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, “If AlphaGo was China’s Sputnik moment, the government’s AI plan was like President John F. Kennedy’s landmark speech calling for America to land a man on the moon.”

Beijing had now decisively upped the stakes: theirs was the pursuit of a new vision of the future, one in which China would strive to be the global leader in AI by 2030.

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