$2.8b artificial intelligence park planned in Beijing

Park that will house 400 enterprises, 'national-level' lab part of China's plan to become world leader in AI by 2025

BEIJING • Beijing is planning to build a 13.8 billion yuan (S$2.8 billion) artificial intelligence (AI) development park in the city's west, the official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, as China pushes ahead to fulfil its ambition to become a world leader in AI by 2025.

The AI park will house up to 400 enterprises and have an estimated annual output of 50 billion yuan, Xinhua said, citing a report from the authorities in Beijing's Mentougou district.

Zhongguancun Development Group, the developer of the project, will look to partner foreign universities and build a "national-level" AI lab in the area, Xinhua said.

Zhongguancun Development and representatives for Beijing's Mentougou district could not be immediately reached for comment.

China's plan to accelerate AI development comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and the United States over the competitive applications of AI in military technology, reported Reuters.

China aims to grow the local industry to more than 150 billion yuan by 2020 and 400 billion yuan by 2025, according to the State Council.

Locally, China has unveiled a series of plans to bolster talent, investment and research in AI, urging private, public and military firms to cooperate on national AI goals in a development road map released last year, reported Reuters.

AIDING CHINA'S TECH AMBITIONS

If we allow China access to these same technologies concurrently, then not only may we lose our technological superiority, but we may even be facilitating China's technological superiority.

PENTAGON REPORT, on Chinese investment in US start-ups.

SILICON VALLEY'S GENIUS, CREATIVITY

I don't think they'll (China) be number one, because I think there's still a level of genius and creativity in Silicon Valley that persists and will always persist.

VENTURE CAPITALIST JIM BREYER, on the AI competition between the US and China.

The country's burgeoning AI industry has also attracted foreign firms.

Last month, Alphabet Inc's Google announced it would launch a Beijing-based AI research team targeting local research talent, even though the US firm's search engine remains blocked behind China's firewall.

The new AI park will focus on attracting enterprises that work on big data, biometric identification, deep learning and cloud computing, the Xinhua report said yesterday.

Beijing also recently released blueprints for an autonomous driving zone on the city's outskirts, dedicated to testing and developing local autonomous vehicles.

Some experts have compared the competition between the US and China in the AI arena with the space race of the 1950s. However, noted venture capitalist Jim Breyer said that the US would continue to lead China.

"I don't think they'll (China) be No. 1, because I think there's still a level of genius and creativity in Silicon Valley that persists and will always persist," Mr Breyer said during a CNBC-hosted panel in November last year.

Nevertheless, Washington is nervous about the prospects of China getting a leg up when it comes to AI.

A recent Pentagon report indicated that the White House was concerned about Chinese investment in US start-ups, with a high possibility of tighter controls on acquisitions, reported CNBC.

"If we allow China access to these same technologies concurrently, then not only may we lose our technological superiority, but we may even be facilitating China's technological superiority," the report said.

The US government on Tuesday refused to approve a multimillion-dollar merger of MoneyGram with Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline '$2.8b artificial intelligence park planned in Beijing'. Print Edition | Subscribe