This year, China is seeing an artificial intelligence (AI) boom, which has demonstrated enormous promise in transforming the world’s second-largest economy. Over 30 cutting-edge technologies, including deep-learning large language models and general-purpose humanoid robots, will make their global debut at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2023 in Shanghai, demonstrating the AI craze.
According to industry insiders and academics, China’s AI revolution reflects the country’s ambition to advance the digital economy and a new phase of industrial revolution. AI technologies are revolutionising a wide range of industries, providing further economic momentum to the Chinese economy as well as the global economy.
This year’s WAIC features almost 400 enterprises occupying a huge exhibition area covering 50,000 square metres. Both figures are at their highest since the event’s inception in 2018.
Since ChatGPT took the globe by storm late last year, Chinese tech behemoths and startups have been hurrying to enter the AI race, releasing comparable AI chatbots one after the other.
According to a report released in May by a research centre linked with the Ministry of Science and Technology, China has 79 key AI large language models, with internet heavyweights such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan, and iFLYTEK all pushing into this field.
According to Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xu Xiaolan, China’s AI industry is seeing rapid growth, with the core business valued at 500 billion yuan (approximately 69 billion US dollars) and the number of AI enterprises topping 4,300.
China has been advancing the development of AI-related infrastructure, with the country’s overall processing capacity already ranking second in the world, according to Xu.
“The strong demand for computing power provides a huge market, and domestic chip companies will have more opportunities given the tight supply and export restrictions on foreign computing chips,” said Cai Quangen, vice chairman of chip maker Iluvatar CoreX.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, praised China’s AI industry progress while speaking at the WAIC via video link on Thursday. He predicted that China will have great AI capabilities in the future.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Liu Hongbin, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Hong Kong Institute of Science and Innovation. Given the number of people working in AI-related industries, the benefit of a massive amount of AI data, advanced AI infrastructure, and government support, China will become a world leader in AI by 2030, according to Liu.
The AI boom is driving the development of China’s digital economy and transforming the economic landscape by spawning a vast number of applications for industry and scientific research.
According to Xu, more than 2,500 digital and intelligent workshops and factories have been created across the country, reducing the R&D cycle by 20.7 percent and increasing production efficiency by 34.8 percent.
At the AI event in Shanghai, XtalPi Inc., a pharmaceutical technology firm powered by AI and automation, displayed a drug discovery automation solution. According to Gu Liang, XtalPi’s chief technology officer, AI technology can assist break through the speed bottleneck in chemical synthesis, boost the success rate of drug development studies, and reduce the development cycles of new pharmaceuticals.
Huawei announced the Pangu Large Model 3.0 on Friday at the Huawei Cloud Developer Conference. It contained sub-models for pharmaceutical development, mining, and railway transportation.
“AI big models should be applied in real-economy fields such as urban development, fintech, biomedicine, manufacturing, and scientific research, in addition to applications such as conversations, poetry writing, and painting,” said Wu Hequan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
To date, AI big models in China have demonstrated considerable promise for applications in smart mining, medication development, meteorology, e-government, finance, intelligent manufacturing, and railway administration.
“In the future, we will move towards an era of intelligent interaction, where people and machines are more seamlessly connected and machines are better equipped to help us accomplish greater tasks,” He Xiaodong, head of JD Explore Academy, stated. “AI large-scale models will eventually shift to multimodality, bringing more innovation and possibilities to all industries.”
According to Tang Lan, director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations’ cyberspace governance research centre, China views the digital economy as an important method of promoting economic transformation and high-quality growth.
Over the last seven years, China has seen a considerable expansion in the scale of its digital economy. According to a research paper issued Wednesday at the Global Digital Economy Conference 2023 in Beijing, China’s digital economy grew by 4.1 trillion US dollars between 2016 and 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 14.2 percent.
In 2022, China’s digital economy will be worth 50.2 trillion yuan, accounting for 41.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
“Digital technologies are driving a new round of technological and industrial revolutions, and the development of China’s digital economy will continue to create a huge market space and bring about lots of win-win business opportunities for foreign investors,” Tang added.
She noted that China’s role in the technological revolution will help revitalise the world’s lethargic economy.
Tang suggested that countries around the world maintain an open and cooperative mindset and work together to settle disagreements and establish a consensus in order to jointly build a community with a shared future in cyberspace.