March 2016, while the whole world is gazing upon Seoul, Korea for the grand battle between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, the subject of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is being widely discussed among enterprises and media. Meanwhile, AI, as a new concept, is being written into a crucial Chinese policy schema: the proposal of China’s thirteenth Five-Year Plan, which plays a significant role in China’s economical development in the next few years. Intelligent manufacturing and robotics development became one of the key elements in the project ‘Technological Innovation 2030’. Cultivating AI, intelligent hardware, new displays, and portable intelligent terminals, etc. are listed as new strategic industrial developments. In fact, as long ago as early 2015, after China announced that the ‘Made in China 2025’, and ‘Internet Plus’ plans are put into effect; AI was confirmed to be one of the eleven key industrial development focuses. AI’s importance was elevated up to national strategic level, with detailed supporting measurements put forward, and unreasonable regimes that previously blocked AI development were abandoned.
According to the predictions of market research agencies, in the backdrop of rapid increase in global AI market, China’s AI market gross in 2015 is approximately 1.26 billion rmb, with the expectation of reaching the gross of 9.1 billion rmb in 2020. In the competition for this enormous profit, Baidu is undoubtedly leading the AI industry in China. As early as March 2015, Baidu’s CEO Robin Li (Li Yanhong), who is also a delegate of CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), brought up the plan of ‘China Brain’ in the proposal of NPC (National People’s Congress) & CPPCC 2016 Annual Sessions. The plan calls for promoting AI’s improvement, and seizing the peak of technological revolution. Robin Li claims that ‘China Brain’ is about constructing the basic facilities for grand AI development. He suggests centralizing large-scale AI related services, and opening it to scientific research institutions, private enterprises, state owned enterprises, entrepreneurs, and other social groups. This creates a platform that allows people to experiment with speech recognition, visual recognition, natural language processing, and AI robotics, etc. The large-scale service that is mentioned above means are the service that are being provided for research facilities that are focused on human computer interaction, big data analysis, automated driving, smart medical diagnosis, smart drones, and robotic technologies for military and civilian use. In Baidu’s opinion, the competition in the Internet services is migrating from ‘Internet Plus’ to ‘AI Plus’ sooner rather than later. Starting from April 2016, Baidu is going to reconstruct research institutes, language processing, and image recognition departments that utilize AI. Furthermore, Baidu is going to remold its own technologies with AI in the future, and the planning of each product and technological system to be executed by AI.
Chinese industries have reached a consensus: the AI development plan and a series of policies made to support its research proposed during China’s thirteen Five-Year Plan is going to build a solid base in the regime aspect, which guarantees China having a firm grasp on the essential AI technological development stage in the next 10 years. Such actions lead to breaking the status quo of US leadership in AI development, ensuring China’s perpetual improvement in the science and technology realm, striving for a leading position globally.
After China provides a fair AI platform for all enterprises, a number of young companies and specialty enterprises will have equal opportunity with giants such as Baidu. In 2014, Mingqiang Li, who formerly served long-term for Tencent at the Tencent Guangzhou Research Institute, established Tupu Technology, with a focus on AI image recognition. At the moment, Tupu Technology provides services for Thunder, Kugou, WUBA, and various other Internet companies. Meanwhile, Tupu Technology also joined Qiniu, Rongcloud, and other cloud service platforms, becoming one of the major AI image recognition cloud platforms in China. In March 2016, the leader of Chinese AI speech service iFlytek and entrepreneur platform Alpha Startups jointly announced Angel Investment Plan for AI technologies. According to this plan, both companies are going to invest in projects that are AI related, such as online education, interactive entertainment, smart medical treatment, etc. Using the resources from both parties, this plan will assist entrepreneurs in AI industry to generate leaping developments. iFlytek currently spends 100 to 200 million rmb of profit in order to support iFly speech cloud, allowing entrepreneurs to use AI technology that iFly speech cloud provides at an inexpensive price. These actions effectively made establishing business in AI industry more accessible for entrepreneurs, and also respond to government policies at a better rate.
With increasing attention being paid to Internet industries by Chinese government over the past recent years, Chinese industries accumulated abundant foundation and resources for AI improvements. Now, the government has given a firm support to AI developments by policy changes. All enterprises that are related to the AI field are expected to follow up at a fair pace to ensure progress in AI development. It is certain that AI is going to achieve a booming increase of development in China for the next few years.
Written by Yan Xue, LG CNS Blog’s Regular Contributor