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These 3 tech bosses think Artificial Intelligence will shape the future of China

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is arguably the hottest area in China’s tech sector for 2017. Domestic tech giants are making strategic moves in the area and authorities have included AI into government work reports for the first time this year.

Over the past week, Chinese tech bosses shared their views on AI as a national strategy.

AllChinaTech has picked out some of their talks to give a glimpse of their insights.

Pony Ma

Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, stressed the potential impact of AI on human-gadget interaction.

“It is possible that machines and gadgets in the future will integrate AI, vision, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering. The interaction interface has evolved from the PC to smartphones. In the future, that might be retina glasses, and even brain waves,” said Ma.

Ma is concerned that if Tencent continues to focus on services and software, the company might lose its current leading position, and that technology-driven companies will have greater advantages if AI becomes more popular in the future.

Tencent has established its AI Lab, focusing on “AI areas including machine learning, voice recognition, and natural language processing”, according to its website.

Robin Li

Robin Li is the founder of search giant Baidu. He believes that 2016 and 2017 will the era when the shift from mobile internet to AI will take place.

At the national level, Li suggested the country should build a favorable environment for the AI industry, and promote the development of an “intelligence plus economy”.

This year Robin Li made three proposals during the Two Sessions, focusing on the use of AI in helping lost children, easing traffic congestion, and AI’s application in industry.

For talented individuals in the area, Li proposed that China should be more welcoming to the foreign tech minds that are kept outside America by Trump’s immigration policies.

Among the Chinese “BAT” tech giants of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, Baidu made AI a key company strategy the earliest. Baidu, like Google, has greatly increased its abilities in the artificial intelligence arena.

In January this year, Baidu appointed technology veteran Doctor Qi Lu as its COO, reporting directly to Robin Li. “Baidu has made AI the most crucial strategy for the company over the upcoming decade,” said Li.

Lei Jun

Lei Jun, the founder and CEO of Xiaomi, believes that breakthroughs in AI will bring in a new round of technological and industrial revolution, and that AI will be a driving force behind China’s development.

The factors restricting China’s AI progress, Lei pointed out, include an absence of national planning, talent shortage, and a situation where, according to him, there is not enough development in big data from the state level

Lei also predicted almost every company will put AI in use in the next two to three years, and in the future AI will cause the laying off of at least 50% of China’s current workforce. However, he also expects that AI will create new job opportunities.

“Everyone will benefit from AI, and enjoy the fun and convenience of AI in about three to five years,” said Lei.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi is relatively behind in AI compared with Baidu and Tencent, though the company has started to dig into the area. In early 2016, Xiaomi set up a lab and declared that the company is to launch an AI product this year.

(Photos from and Baidu Images)

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