China set to advance in ranking of number of AI professionals

A police robot that can scan faces is seen on display at the China International Exhibition on Police Equipment in Beijing, on May 15, 2018. China is expected to advance in the rankings in artificial intelligence soon.
A police robot that can scan faces is seen on display at the China International Exhibition on Police Equipment in Beijing, on May 15, 2018. China is expected to advance in the rankings in artificial intelligence soon. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China may be ranked seventh globally when it comes to the number of professionals working in the cutting-edge industry of artificial intelligence (AI), but the country is forecast to climb the rankings in the next decade.

More than 50,000 AI technical professionals are working in China.

The United States far surpasses other countries with 850,000 out of the 1.9 million such professionals globally, according to a report by the professional networking website LinkedIn.

India, Britain, Canada, Australia and France were placed second to sixth in the rankings, said the report based on LinkedIn user data.

"The core technique of AI is closely related to computer science, in which the US has maintained an absolute advantage in the past 20 years," LinkedIn China's vice-president Wang Di said.

Researcher Li Hui at the Shanghai Institute for Science of Science noted that AI talent in the US is mainly concentrated in such primary technical fields as chips, machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision and imaging, and far surpasses its Chinese counterparts in numbers.

The LinkedIn report found that about one in six employees in the field in the US was born before 1970, compared with only one in 25 in China. It also found that more than 70 per cent of those in the US have at least 10 years of work experience in the industry, while the proportion in China is 38 per cent.

China is expected to advance in the rankings soon, due to the great potential and opportunities in its enormous market, triggering a surge in the number of AI professionals, experts said.

  • 50,000

    Number of AI technical professionals working in China.

Apart from the US, the countries that are ranked ahead of China cannot compare with China in terms of market potential, LinkedIn's Mr Wang said, adding that China may even possibly outperform the US in this regard.

"The speed of development of mobile payment and e-commerce in China has surpassed that of the US. It can also happen to the country's AI development," Mr Wang said.

"Moreover, some traditional industries in China have a more urgent need to upgrade with AI technology. They can resort to AI directly, bypassing the stage of informatisation, which the industries in the US are benefiting from," he added.

With the combined advantages of rising capital investment and powerful policy support from the government, the flow of professionals from overseas will also contribute significantly to the growing talent pool, industry insiders said.

On the cultivation of such talent at universities, professor of computer science Ma Shaoping at Tsinghua University said the key is to strengthen collaboration between schools and enterprises to give students ample hands-on opportunities.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'China set to advance in ranking of number of AI professionals'. Print Edition | Subscribe