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AI to be ‘driving force’ of China’s ‘new wave’

China has hailed the role of artificial general intelligence in transforming the country’s industries and refuelling its economy, despite growing overseas calls for international collaboration on regulation.

In a second commentary in the past two weeks, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, vowed to intensify efforts to unleash the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

“[Artificial general intelligence] will become an important driving force in the new wave of technological revolution and industrial transformation, with a major impact on people’s production and life,” according to the commentary published on Monday.

It listed areas that China could benefit from artificial intelligence, including daily office work, biopharmaceuticals, remote sensing and meteorology.

After the Microsoft-backed OpenAI released ChatGPT in November, Beijing has been seen as pinning its hopes on the development of AI to bolster industrial productivity and fuel the world’s second-largest economy that is still haunted by the scarring effects of the coronavirus, slowing exports and an intensified rivalry with the United States.

The Politburo, the prime decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, said in late April that China “should attach importance to the development of artificial general intelligence, create an innovative ecology and pay attention to risk prevention”.

In a separate report released by a think tank under state-backed Xinhua News Agency, the introduction of ChatGPT is believed to have fuelled China’s even quicker engagement in AI and accelerated its catch-up with the US on the “ever-heating” technology track.

In its “Annual Report on the Development of New Generation Artificial Intelligence (2022-2023)”, the China Economic Information Service also said China’s AI technology has entered the global top tier, with around 16 per cent of the world’s related companies.

Some 33 firms also appear on the 2023 global unicorn list, accounting for nearly one-third of the global total, the report added.

Professional services firm PwC said earlier that China will benefit the most from AI, with the technology set to contribute to a 26 per cent increase in its gross domestic product by 2030.

Combined with the US, this would account for nearly 70 per cent of the global economic impact.

The People’s Daily, however, said China still faces challenges, such as the lack of compute-in-memory chips and the ethical dilemma of its application, while also flagging the relevant risks of the technology.

“The evolving nature of AI also poses certain risks,” it said, adding that AI presents challenges to China’s efforts to protect intellectual property rights, personal privacy and fight against online fraud.

The newspaper also called on governments and industry players to strengthen their risk assessment skills and introduce more forward-looking policies to address the ethical risks.

China’s top legislature, which is set to deliberate an AI law this year, will target telecoms and online fraud using AI face swapping technology, spokesman Zang Tiewei said on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said after meeting with officials during a visit to China that the Chinese government will seek to initiate AI regulations.

“I think we had some very productive discussions on artificial intelligence risks, and the need for some oversight and regulation,” Musk said, according to Reuters. South China Morning

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