Xi Jinping's bookshelf offers a glimpse into China's goal of becoming AI powerhouse

Two books on Chinese President Xi Jinping's shelf drew public attention both locally and abroad.
Two books on Chinese President Xi Jinping's shelf drew public attention both locally and abroad.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - When Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered his New Year speech on the last day of 2017 in his office through a video, two books on the bookshelf behind him drew public attention from both home and abroad.

The two books are about artificial intelligence: The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World, by Pedro Domingos, and Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, by Brett King.

The Master Algorithm, published in 2015, describes how machine learning is remaking business, politics, science and war.

Augmented describes how society will be impacted by technologies that will change the world more in the next 20 years than it has been changed in the past 250 years.

The Business Insider said it is interesting that Mr Xi has the two books on his bookshelf. It reflected China's ambition regarding artificial intelligence, or AI, said the report.

A report published on the WeChat account of xuexixiaozu, which is operated by the overseas edition of People's Daily, labelled the two books as "newly published leading edge scientific books" among eight different categories of books on the president's bookshelf that appeared in the New Year address.

INNOVATION HIGHLIGHTED

The president has attached great importance to the development of AI, cloud computing and big data in recent years. In his address to the 19th CPC National Congress, Mr Xi called for more efforts to foster new areas of growth through further integration of the Internet, big data and artificial intelligence with the real economy.

Speaking at a collective study session of the CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau in December, Mr Xi said that the Internet, big data, artificial intelligence and the real economy all should be interconnected.

Mr Xi also emphasised the necessity of using big data to improve governance.

While inspecting a company in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, in December, Mr Xi called for more innovation in the equipment manufacturing sector to accelerate China's drive towards becoming a manufacturing powerhouse and to bolster the real economy.

At Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, a leading domestic manufacturer, Mr Xi was briefed about the company's intelligent assembly lines and big data platform.

"Innovation is the source of business core competitiveness," Mr Xi said. He urged a shift from Made in China to Created in China.

 

Innovation ranks first among the Five Concepts of Development raised by Mr Xi as the drive of a new kind of economic growth, along with the other four concepts of coordination, environment, openness and sharing.

In a signed article in German media ahead of his state visit to Germany in July, Mr Xi called on the two countries to deepen practical cooperation in such fields as innovation, the internet and smart manufacturing.

The G20 Hangzhou Summit, held in East China's Zhejiang province in 2016, adopted the Blueprint on Innovative Growth and formulated a specific action plan.

Dr Wu Fei, head of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at Zhejiang University, said that as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and president, Mr Xi has set a visionary tone for China's AI development, which is to turn into a global AI leader in the coming 15 years.

"President Xi has said that AI will definitely change the world and society, so we should take the opportunities," Dr Wu said.

GLOBAL EXCHANGES ON AI

In his state visit to China earlier this month (January), French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of boosting cooperation between France and China in the field of artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the conclusion of a Sino-French forum on artificial intelligence in Beijing, Mr Macron presided over the signing of various cooperation agreements on technology and trade.

Mr Macron said China had a great advantage in the AI sector given its enormous domestic market.

While talking with Mr Macron, Mr Xi called for integrating the development strategies of China and France, strengthening innovative cooperation, and achieving common development in the areas of digital economy and artificial intelligence.

Ms Li Fei Fei, chief scientist of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google Cloud, announced in December that Google would launch a new AI research centre in Beijing, as part of its AI First strategy.

China is "a rising country of AI work and research", she told Xinhua News Agency. The Google AI China Centre, the first of its kind in Asia, will primarily focus on basic AI research.

China's AI industry has been developing rapidly in recent years. The number of AI companies has increased from 57 in 2007 to 592 by June 2017, more than tenfold over the past 10 years, according to a report released by Tencent Research Institute.

In December, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology unveiled a three-year plan to boost the application of AI in the automobile, robotics, healthcare and other sectors to upgrade the country's real economy.