China's State Council issued a "New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan" yesterday, outlining how the country will create the world's leading AI industry, with a target value of RMB1 trillion (US$148 billion) by 2030.
In the document, Beijing spelled out three steps to reach its goal of turning China Inc. into China AI. The first step is for China's AI industry to maintain an advanced position in terms of AI technology and applications, and for the AI sector to become an important growth engine for the economy. The core AI industry will grow to RMB150 billion by 2020, in turn driving growth of related sectors to RMB1 trillion.
The second step is for China's AI basic theory to achieve major breakthroughs, and for some Chinese AI technology and application to lead the world before the year of 2025. By then, China's core AI sector should be as large as RMB400 billion, and driving other industries to the scale of RMB5 trillion.
The final step will see China lead the world in terms of AI theory, technology and applications by 2030, and for the country to become a major innovation center globally. China's core AI industry will be worth over RMB1 trillion, and related industries will reach around RMB10 trillion in value, according to the document.
Specifically, the plan calls for the creation of leading companies and brands in China in the areas of drones, natural language processing and image recognition. The country will also aim to nurture the creation and growth of key companies in intelligent robots, smart cars and wearable devices.
Private markets are encouraged to support the AI sector's growth, while government fiscal spending should also strengthen its support for the cause. Government guidance funds and government-backed funds are called on to provide capital assistance to AI companies, while industry associations are encouraged to develop new AI investment funds. Local governments should support AI start-ups with tax breaks and other policy initiatives, says the plan.
Chinese AI companies are advised to "go abroad" to invest and acquire overseas AI companies. They are also encouraged to establish overseas research centers and conduct venture capital investments in foreign AI companies. Foreign AI companies and research institutions are encouraged to establish research centers in China.
In expectation that the application of AI will lead to job losses in certain sectors, the plan says that related government agencies should study changes in labor demand and help train workers for new jobs.
The plan also calls for the establishment of laws to deal with ethical and legal challenges stemming from the research and development of AI, and regulate the changing business environment in the age of AI. The need for such laws was evident last month when Baidu Inc's CEO Robin Li showed off the company's new self-driving car in a video at a company conference, even though operating such autonomous vehicles is currently illegal in China.