Source: The Hindu BusinessLine

The AI race is on and the US, thanks to its tech companies, is seemingly in the lead. Regardless, China is on a mission to take global dominance in the field and it has hauled its billionaires in on the race.

Silicon Valley Fueling the US AI Sector

Silicon Valley has been the US’ biggest accelerator in the AI race. The region is arguably the world’s supreme tech entrepreneurial hotspot and is also the birthplace of technology giants such as Google, Apple, and Intel that have helped shape the global tech industry.

Additionally, companies in this region are known to have a culture of research where they often spend years working to improve a technology without a product in mind. This is the case with OpenAI which was a research organization for many years working on transformer models that eventually formed ChatGPT.

According to Pascale Fung, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology:

“This environment never existed in most Chinese companies. They would build deep learning systems or large language models only after they saw the popularity. This is a fundamental challenge to Chinese AI.”

So far, developments by companies such as Microsoft and OpenAI have propelled the US to the global leader position in the race for AI dominance. However, AI is a fairly young technology, and perfecting it will take years. This means it’s not too late and China could stand a chance in the race.

Chinese Billionaires Join The AI Race

Wang Changhu | Source: Bloomberg

In an attempt to catch up with its rival, China intends to spend $15 billion on AI developments this year. This is close to half of the $26.6 billion that the US is reported to have spent on technology in the first half of 2023.

However, China’s billionaire entrepreneurs, mid-level engineers, and former employees of companies such as Google,, and ByteDance have united to help their country be a transformative force in the field. One such scientist is Wang Xiaochuan who made his debut in AI right after the release of ChatGPT.

By April this year, the Sogou search engine creator had already created an AI company, Baichuan Intelligence, with $50 million in funding. Two months later, Baichuan Intelligence released an open-source huge language model in June, and researchers at China’s two top institutions have already started using it.

According to Wang”

“We all heard the sound of the starter pistol in the race. Tech companies, big or small, are all on the same starting line. China is still three years behind the US, but we may not need three years to catch up.”

Aside from Wang, other top names in the sector joining the cause in China are Kai-fu Lee, a venture capitalist best known for backing companies like Meitu and Zhihu, and Wang Changhu, the former director of ByteDance’s AI Lab.

Zhou Bowen, the former president of Inc.’s AI and cloud computing division, and Wang Huiwen, the co-founder of Meituan, are also working to grow the country’s AI sector.

Wang Changhu said, “This is at least a once-in-a-decade opportunity, an opportunity for startups to create companies comparable to the behemoths.” Changhu added that investors have been contacting him as he developed his AI company. This shows how willing investors are to dive into AI.

Unfortunately, even as China strives to make a mark in the AI industry, its woes with the US are holding it back. The sanctions on China that banned the export of high-performing computer chips and semiconductors slow the country down in its plans.

Large language models require strong chipsets such as the ones from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. However, Washington bans the most powerful ones from entering the nation and even the less powerful ones have a ban looming.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, the Biden administration is reportedly considering tightening regulations as soon as in the upcoming months, thus banning less-capable chips that Nvidia has developed for Chinese consumers.

Such factors continue to hurt China’s chance to compete with applications such as ChatGPT.

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