ChinAI 109: Around the Horn

10 articles from WeChat accounts and groups in just the past week

Greetings from a world where the Ball Don’t Lie

A little personal update — for the upcoming academic year, I’ll be joining this cool (and intimidating) cohort as a predoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, supported by Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. For those interested, that link gives a window into what I’m thinking and researching about outside of ChinAI.

…As always, the searchable archive of all past issues is here. Please please subscribe here to support ChinAI under a Guardian/Wikipedia-style tipping model (everyone gets the same content but those who can pay support access for all AND compensation for awesome ChinAI contributors).

Around the Horn with ChinAI

I don’t know if I’m even using the expression right, but I loved the ESPN show as a kid, so we’re just going to call this ChinAI’s first-ever around the horn. Here’s the premise:

  • I’ll give short previews of 10 articles related to ChinAI from this week that caught my eye when scanning WeChat accounts and groups. Each preview will also include a little context about the source. The idea is to give folks a fuller sense of the breadth and diversity of Chinese-language content, of which ChinAI is a drop in the ocean.

  • Reply to the email, or comment on the Substack post, with the number of the article you’re most intrigued by, and the one that receives the most votes will be the feature translation for next week! If you’re supporting ChinAI financially as a subscriber, flag that in your reply, and I’ll give it a little added weight when tallying up all the votes.

So, let’s go around the horn (all links go to the original Chinese article):

1) How was Germany's scientific research status created? How did it transform its scientific and technological achievements?

Summary: A prof-level senior engineer/deputy sec. of the party committee of Shanghai Institute of Family Planning Sciences gives their takeaways from a special training course, organized by the Shanghai Foreign Experts Bureau, which involved a visit to Hanover and Munich. Lessons for China from German scientific and technological transformation.

Source: 三思派 (Science-Pie) — This article was shared in a WeChat group I’m in. Though I don’t regularly follow it, seems to be a very interesting platform that focuses on science, technology, and innovation in China, jointly produced by:

  • Shanghai Institute for Science of Science, which was one of the earliest think tanks dedicated to innovation policy, established in 1980

  • Jiefang Daily, which is official daily newspaper of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China)

2) Open source is dead? Research shows that the open source field is no longer growing!

Summary: Distills key findings from a recent paper (Dorner et al.) on the saturation of open source software. Includes some reactions from readers of OSChina on whether they are still contributing to open source projects.

Source: OSChina — has featured in two recent ChinAI issues about Docker and the effect of entity-list export restrictions on open source projects, as well as Douyu’s open-source microservices architecture.

3) Breaking the record again! Overview of Megvii research institute’s 15 achievements at ECCV

Summary: The European Conference of Computer Vision (ECCV), one of the top 3 conferences on computer vision, was held last week. This article reviews trends in computer vision and highlights Megvii’s accomplishments, including a look at its 15 accepted papers.

Source: Paperweekly — a Chinese platform that keeps up with the latest in ML research, which we browsed together in a previous ChinAI issue.

4) Let’s unfold the 500-page prospectus of Ant Group’s IPO and understand what it’s like to have 21.9B RMB in net profits in half a year

Summary: What’s the secret to Ant Financial’s success? A deep dive into the company’s prospectus, which unpacks the company’s key competitive advantages but also the regulatory risks it faces.

Source: 机器之能/jiqizhineng (Synced)a long-time source for ChinAI translations, often features longform articles about China’s tech industry

5) Ten years of Baidu NLP: based on knowledge-enhanced language technology to realize multi-modal integrated understanding

Summary: A review of a decade of NLP progress and development at Baidu. Based on a speech at a recent Baidu summit given by Wang Haifeng, the company’s CTO and first Chinese chair of the Association for Computational Linguistics (a top conference in this field).

Source: AI科技评论(aitechtalk) — focuses on in-depth reports on developments in the AI industry and academia.

6) Li Dongrong: Thoughts on the protection of personal financial information in the digital age

Summary: Li Dongrong is the first president of the China Internet Finance Association, which is a national self-regulatory organization initiated by the People’s Bank of China in collaboration with gov. ministries/commissions. He provides an overview on the necessity of protecting personal financial information and recommendations to that end.

Source: 金融电子化 (fcmag) — recommendation via the WeChat account of China Information Security, a very important academic journal on informatization and cybersecurity.

7) The "underlying" strength of artificial intelligence under the “new infrastructure” concept

Summary: Examines the role of AI in the “new infrastructure” push. Looks at early investments that may have decades-long payoffs — focuses on Baidu’s Paddle Paddle and efforts in training next generation of AI talent. Came across this by just doing a WeChat search for "人工智能的” (AI) and filtered by the top ranked articles. This was one of the most read.

Source: 三联生活周刊 (www.lifeweek.com.cn) — SDX Joint Publishing, mainland branch of Sanlian (a huge Hong Kong books store chain). News and cultural magazine, which gives a flavor of what more mainstream audiences are reading about re: AI in China.

8) "AI Major" has become a hot spot to apply for! Some have annual salaries of over one million

Summary: Goes through figures on employment prospects in AI, salary figures, as well as the landscape of AI majors across Chinese universities.

Source: 南方都市报 (NDDaily) — Southern Metropolis Daily, newspaper published in Guangzhou -- well-known for its investigative journalism.

9) Frozen stiff, the red flag no longer flutters in the wind—a study of the early history of Hongqi cars

Summary: On August 23rd, FAW Hongqi’s luxury sedan officially hit the market. This essay goes through the history of Hongqi, which was launched in 1958, making it the oldest Chinese passenger car model.

Source: 北京大学科学技术与医学史系 (Department of History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Peking University). Shared in a WeChat group I’m in.

10) A whale falls in the northeast: Changchun ushers in its second spring

Summary: Changchun (capital of China’s Jilin Province in the northeast) had its first spring when its automobile industrial base grew rapidly in the 1950s/1960s. Now, Changchun is in decline, and part of a global "rust belt.” What’s the way out? Using a Chinese saying — 巨鲸落,万物生 [A giant whale falls, many things live] — this longform essay explores where new growth opportunities are in China’s northeast region.

Source: 钛禾产业观察 (Taihe Industry Observer). I covered this plaform in-depth in these two previous ChinAI issues, describing them as China’s mini DefenseOne.


***Once again: Reply to the email, or comment on the Substack post, with the number of the article you’re most intrigued by, and choose the feature translation for next week! If you’re supporting ChinAI financially as a subscriber, flag that in your reply, and I’ll give it a little added weight when tallying up all the votes.

ChinAI Links (Four to Forward)

Must-read: Annotated Bibliography on Network Traffic Management and Device Intrusion for Targeted Monitoring

Is there anything in this world more beautiful than a well-crafted annotated bibliography? A group at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab — Siena Anstis, Sharly Chan, Adam Senft, and Ronald J. Deibert provide a high-level intro to network management technology such as deep packet inspection and Internet filtering tools. They review the literature on their uses for socially beneficial purposes as well as the potential for human rights infringements. Last updated: September 2019.

Should-read: The Future of American Industry Depends on Open Source Tech

By Kevin Xu and Jordan Schneider for Wired, a really informative, insightful, fit for the 21st century tech strategy. They write: “Yet as US policymakers develop their industrial policy to compete with China, open source is conspicuously absent…open source is not the panacea to all problems. By definition, anyone can run, change, copy, and distribute an open source technology. Thus, the technology and knowledge transfer can go to friends or foes. Indeed, China’s technology sector is starting to embrace open source—a sensible thing to do for a country looking to maintain its rapid growth and establish technological self-reliance in the face of US sanctions.”

Should-read: China’s Use of AI in its COVID-19 Response

By Emily Weinstein, who is producing high-quality content at an impressive rate, this CSET data brief summarizes findings from a March 2020 report entitled “Example Applications of Digital Health Technology for Epidemic Prevention and Control,” published by the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT)—a think tank under the PRC’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (工业和信息化部; MIIT). The CAICT paper provides examples of how AI technologies helped combat COVID-19 from news reports from WeChat and official Chinese state-run media sources, company press releases, and academic journals. *Note that the foundation of this work is a translation of a Chinese-language report — that is a direct product of CSET investing in a translation lead (Ben Murphy).

Should-watch: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Best known for her science fiction and “Earthsea” fantasy series, celebrated and beloved author Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (1929–2018) wrote 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, 12 children’s books, six volumes of poetry and four of translation during her life. American Masters presents the first documentary film exploring the remarkable life and legacy of the prolific and versatile author.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

***A quick note on my previous translation on Douyu’s open source framework Jupiter. Originally, I translated 二开 (shorthand for 二次开发) as “secondary development.” Thanks to ChinAI reader, Kevin Litchfield, for suggesting “fork” as an alternative translation. “Open source libraries have insufficient functions and bugs cannot be fixed in time, so (Douyu) forked the repository and continued to develop it.” We’re still trying to confirm the best way to translate 二开; after all, translations are living breathing things!

These are Jeff Ding's (sometimes) weekly translations of Chinese-language musings on AI and related topics. Jeff is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Oxford and a researcher at the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute.

Check out the archive of all past issues here & please subscribe here to support ChinAI under a Guardian/Wikipedia-style tipping model (everyone gets the same content but those who can pay for a subscription will support access for all).

Any suggestions or feedback? Let me know at chinainewsletter@gmail.com or on Twitter at @jjding99