Last month, Chinese internet giant Tencent released its Internet Technology Innovation Whitepaper, which opened with a letter to company partners from CEO Huateng Ma stating, “In the past year our society underwent a comprehensive digitalization process. […] Companies, public service departments, education departments, scientific research institutions, non-profit organization, and cultural enterprises from all walks of life are eager to hop on the express train of digital transformation.”
In Ma’s view digitalization is removing barriers between industries and regions. Public and private sectors can now partner to form a new kind of ‘digital ecology’. As the cloud, big data, and AI create a new infrastructure that powers new types of social governance, seven trends have emerged:
➤ In the past 40 years, society has witnessed the development of IT, the internet and mobile internet, and AI. Tencent believes we are experiencing unprecedented simultaneous cross-sector technological development.
➤ Government policy encourages AI research, commercialization, and implementation. Since 2012, the Chinese government has released over 50 white papers detailing AI development strategies. In Notification of a New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, China made clear its goal to achieve international leadership in AI technology by 2030.
➤ Domestic AI development budded when China’s first robotics company Weilai (Future) Robotics was founded in Shanghai in 1996. Five years later the first iBot robot startup obtained US$20.4 million in funding from IDG capital, marking the first AI investment milestone.
➤ By mid-2017, China had 592 AI companies, which is 23% of the global total, making it the second largest AI industry cluster in the world. Domestic VC invested a total of US$63.5 billion into 767 startups, which is 33% of total global investment.
➤ Domestic AI companies are primarily located in Beijing (42%), Guangdong (20%), Shanghai (14%), Zhejiang (14%), and Jiangsu (5%). Major AI application areas are computer vision (146 companies), intelligent robots (125 companies), and natural language processing (92 companies).
➤ China’s 592 AI companies employ over 40,000 employees, but the country still lacks the talents required for building a robust hardware infrastructure.
➤ According to Wuzhen index: Global Artificial Intelligence Development Report, China currently holds 15,745 AI patents, while the US holds 26,891 patents and Japan 14,604. These three countries hold 74% of all patents in the field of artificial intelligence.
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