Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned artificial intelligence, the current buzz word in venture and tech circles, for the first time while making an annual speech on March 5 in Beijing, highlighting Beijing's focus on the next technology frontier and its determination to support the industry's future growth.
Li delivered the Report on the Work of the Government yesterday at the opening of the the National People's Congress, the annual meeting of China's legislature. For the first time, the Premier said that China is determined to accelerate emerging industries, including artificial intelligence.
New materials, semiconductors, bio-pharmaceuticals and 5G telecommunication technology are also included in Li's speech as examples of new emerging industries that the government will support with strong policy preference.
In an earlier policy directive published in July 2016, artificial intelligence was listed as one of the next-generation information technologies in China's 13th Five-Year Plan in the area of technology and innovation.
A number of representatives attending the annual legislature meeting also proposed regulations incorporating artificial intelligence. Robin Li, founder of Chinese search engine leader Baidu Inc., made proposals for regulators to consider using artificial intelligence to help find and return children to their parents.
Face recognition, big data and a consolidated network will help public security officers to locate, find and reunite lost or stolen children with their parents, and help crack down on human trafficking, Li wrote in his report.
Li, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, also suggested that artificial intelligence could be used to reduce traffic jams in cities. Image recognition and smart traffic lights should help cities better manage traffic flows and reduce bottlenecks.
Guo Guangchang, chief of Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group, also submitted proposals to develop China's artificial intelligence-enabled healthcare ecosystem. Guo said that government should provide more support to innovative healthcare enterprises, including preferential treatment on land, tax and human resources. Guo is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.