China produces as many artificial intelligence researchers as the US, but it lags in key fields like machine learning. The government hopes to make up ground.
The Chinese government made its AI ambitions clear in a sweeping plan released in 2017. It set AI researchers the goal of making “fundamental breakthroughs by 2025” and called for the country to be “the world’s primary innovation center by 2030.”
BAAI opened a year later, in Zhongguancun, a neighborhood of Beijing designed to replicate US innovation hubs such as Boston and Silicon Valley. It is home to a few big tech companies modeled on Western successes, like the PC maker Lenovo and the search engine Sogou, as well as countless cheap electronics stores.
In recent years, the electronics stores have begun disappearing, and dozens of startups have sprung up, many focused on finding lucrative uses for AI—in manufacturing, robotics, logistics, education, finance, and other fields.
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