China will send Wu Zhaohui, a Vice Minister of Science and Technology, to a global summit on artificial intelligence this week in Britain, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Britain is bringing together representatives of AI companies, political leaders and experts on Nov. 1-2 to discuss what some see as the risks posed by the technology, with an aim of building an international consensus on its safe development.
China last week accepted Britain’s invitation to attend the summit, in another sign of thawing relations, after Britain’s top diplomat James Cleverly visited Beijing in August in the first trip by a British foreign secretary in five years.
Britain is trying to improve ties with China after the relationship sunk to its lowest point in decades under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when London restricted some Chinese investment over national security worries and expressed concern over a crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong.
Visits to China by senior British civil servants and former officials have increased in recent months. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Beijing earlier this month and met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as Beijing seeks to boost ties with the Labour party ahead of a general election likely next year.
Wu will be joined by representatives from the Chinese foreign ministry, companies and academic bodies including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Alibaba (9988.HK) and Tencent (0700.HK), according to one of the sources, who declined to be identified as the information remained confidential.
Alibaba, Tencent and Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office did not respond immediately to requests for comment. China’s science ministry and foreign ministry, as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, did not respond immediately to faxed requests for comment.
Wu was appointed to his role in the science ministry in December 2022. China is restructuring the ministry to channel more resources into achieving scientific breakthroughs, with a goal of moving faster towards self-reliance.
The other source said that President Xi Jinping had initially been invited, adding that there had been a big discussion over whether Britain should invite any Chinese officials. “But eventually the view was taken that to not invite China would be counter-productive,” the source said. They also declined to be named as the information was confidential.
Like many countries around the world, China has been caught up in a global craze over generative AI following the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT last year.
China now has at least 130 large language models launched by companies including Alibaba and Tencent, accounting for 40% of the global total and just behind the United States’ 50% share, according to brokerage CLSA. Reuters