New battlefield between China and the US: Can Chinese AIs blacklisted by the US fight back?
China announced a bold plan two years ago, claiming to surpass the United States and become a global leader in artificial intelligence technology (AI) and applications by 2030.
It is widely believed that China's artificial intelligence technology has surpassed the EU countries in many aspects. But now, China's plans to become a global leader in artificial intelligence technology may be hampered as the United States begins to restrict certain Chinese companies from buying AI technology developed or manufactured in the United States.
The reason for the United States is that these Chinese companies have created products that are used to infringe the human rights of Chinese Muslim minorities. It is worth noting that companies listed on the US blacklist include many official Chinese “national AI champions”, which include:
Megvii: developer of image recognition software, sometimes referred to as the world's most valuable AI startup
iFlytek: Speech Recognition Technology Professional Company
Hikvision: One of the world's largest manufacturers of closed circuit television (CCTV) systems
SenseTime: Founded at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a startup that uses AI technology to serve smart cities, transportation and education applications.
Yitu: Developer of calculator vision and speech recognition tools
Like Huawei's previous experience, these companies are now facing major setbacks due to the intervention of the Trump administration. Part of the reason is that the latter relies on proprietary technology in the United States.
For example, Shang Tang Technology established a co-financed research project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Alliance last year. Etutech recently collaborated with researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to develop algorithms for diagnosing childhood diseases.
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US intervention may also jeopardize the ability of these companies to attract foreign investment. Bloomberg has hinted that the $1 billion listing plan of contempt for technology may be blocked. But perhaps most critically, the blacklist threat will cut off the supply of computer chips and other components needed for Hikvision's surveillance cameras, while others will need to train their algorithms.
The United States is now the undisputed leader in the semiconductor industry.
Whether it's a central processing unit (CPU) or graphics processor (GPU) from technology giants such as Intel and Nvdia, or less known from Ambarella and ON Semiconductor. The chip companies specializing in AI-related tasks can be said to be the technology provided by these American companies, supporting the development of Chinese technology companies.
However, the technological dependence between China and the United States has not been ignored.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), only 16% of the semiconductors currently used in China are made in China, but only half of them are made by Chinese companies. The study pointed out that Beijing's goal is to increase this figure to 40% by the end of next year and to 70% by 2025.
"Transpacific Experiment," the author of the science and technology relationship between China and the United States, Matt Sheehan, told the BBC: "For decades, Beijing has been looking forward to creating China's own local chips." "The emergence of the list of entities has turned this expectation into not only a top priority for the Chinese government, but also a life-and-death problem that Chinese private companies may face."
“This does not mean that Chinese chip companies will succeed very quickly. Chip development is one of the most complex scientific and technological projects, and it usually takes decades of internal knowledge and experience.”
"But it seems that China's AI chip startups will not lack cash or new orders in the short term," Sean said.
In recent weeks, Huawei and Alibaba have launched computer server chips specifically designed for high-speed execution of "machine learning" tasks. Xiaomi also said that it is developing similar products.
At the same time, smaller Chinese startups have received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for other types of AI processors, such as chips for self-driving cars or servers for "smart robots." However, the development of American AI companies has not stagnated. However, the Washington-based think tank warned that the United States should not consider its leading position to be in vain.
The Data Innovation Center said in a report: "American companies are also developing specialized AI chips."
"Despite this, the development of China's well-funded AI chip start-ups and advances in chip design have shown that it at least bridges some of the gaps in the development of AI between China and the United States." The report adds that, by contrast, The EU is a "lager" in the field.
Defiance Technology is a developer of image recognition software and is known as the world's most valuable AI startup.
All of this is important because AI-driven technology has the potential to increase the company's productivity, the education and health of citizens, and the military is more capable of wage war.
Gregory Allen of the New American Security Center points out that "China's success in commercial AI and semiconductor markets is directly related to China's geopolitical power."
"This reduces the ability of the US government to impose diplomatic and economic pressure on China and increases the technical capabilities of the Chinese military and intelligence community." Allen added, "Basically, all major technology companies in China are military and Chinese. The national security department has extensive cooperation, which is also a requirement of Chinese law."
The US's move to curb China's AI leadership in the short term may be in line with its own national security and diplomatic interests. But in the end, this may also stimulate the CCP's determination to reduce the dependence of China's technology industry on foreign partners, which in turn will bring all relevant financial and geopolitical consequences.
Hikvision is one of the world's largest manufacturers of CCTV systems.
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