ChinAI #132: Will the real ChinAI please stand up?

A bimonthly newsletter by Youwen Hu of Essence Securities

Greetings from a world where…

cast iron skillets are overrated

…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). As always, the searchable archive of all past issues is here.

Feature Translation: The Bimonthly AI Newsletter #118

Context: Most weeks, I pick the feature translation by scanning through WeChat subscription accounts and groups. Sometimes, though, a simple search for 人工智能 (AI) on WeChat articles or Google turns up cool stuff. Using the latter approach this week, I came across a bimonthly newsletter on AI published by Youwen Hu, a research analyst for Essence Securities (安信证券), which is a Shenzhen-based securities company. Their coverage is centered on industry news, aimed to establish credibility with investors.

This Bimonthly AI Newsletter《人工智能半月刊》has been going strong since March 27, 2016! Recall that the famous AlphaGo match against Lee Sedol took place earlier that March. Unsurprisingly, the first issue mentions this as an inspiration for the newsletter’s launch. You can find an archive of all past issues here.

What’s in the latest issue (2/16/21)?

Each issue starts with commentary on important events. The latest issue highlighted Hyundai’s Tiger X-1 concept car, which can drive on 4 wheels and walk on 4 legs.

Then, it covers developments in listed companies, distilling info from the latest announcements by Chinese companies. This issue covered:

  • Dahua’s investment in Leapmotor, a Chinese automobile manufacture that specializes in developing electrical vehicles. Dahua is a surveillance camera company.

  • Hanwang (Hanvon) announced rapid growth and revenues from its intelligent, interactive stylus product. You might recognize Hanwang from reports of its role in installing facial-recognition cameras in Chinese classrooms.

  • Ultrapower announced significant increase in net profits, based on strong performance in ICT support services. See ChinAI #63 for a profile of Ultrapower.

  • The resignation of the president of iFlytek, a leading Chinese company in intelligent speech recognition.

  • News from a range of other companies, including CSG Smart Science, Hithink, Synthesis Electronic Tech, etc.

Next, we have industry newsnew trends among the giants, a roundup sourced from Chinese tech media, including many we’ve translated in the past, such as jiqizhixin (Synced). This issue covered:

  • A report by Techweb that Alibaba’s DAMO academy has now established 14 research institutes, achieving 60 world firsts in AI and other fields: DAMO academy has published more than 1,000 paper in int’l academic conferences and journals and incubated two tech companies: Pingtouge (a chip subsidiary) and Xiaomanlv (logistics robot)

  • A jiqizhixin report on AAAI 2021, a leading international conference in the field of AI, where Alibaba had 54 papers selected. The article also highlighted Huawei Cloud’s article “Personalized Cross-Silo Federated Learning on Non-IID Data,” which was also accepted in AAAI 2021.

  • Facebook AI and University of Notre Dame’s collaboration on face alignment and detection

Lastly, the technological breakthroughs. This latest issue featured two from DeepMind and one from Boston Dynamics.

ChinAI Links (Four to Forward)

Must-read: How Oracle Sells Repression in China

An incredibly in-depth account by Mara Hvistendahl for The Intercept that details how Oracle has marketed surveillance and policing applications of its software in not just China but also Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Based on documents that span 2010-2020.

Must-read: I helped build ByteDance's censorship machine

Li An, a pseudonymous former employee at ByteDance, tells Protocol's Shen Lu how censorship at Bytedance works:

When it comes to day-to-day censorship, the Cyberspace Administration of China would frequently issue directives to ByteDance's Content Quality Center (内容质量中心), which oversees the company's domestic moderation operation: sometimes over 100 directives a day. They would then task different teams with applying the specific instructions to both ongoing speech and to past content, which needed to be searched to determine whether it was allowed to stand.

During livestreaming shows, every audio clip would be automatically transcribed into text, allowing algorithms to compare the notes with a long and constantly-updated list of sensitive words, dates and names, as well as Natural Language Processing models. Algorithms would then analyze whether the content was risky enough to require individual monitoring.

Should-read: The AI Research Paper Was Real. The ‘Coauthor’ Wasn't

For Wired, Will Knight uncovers a curious case of Chinese AI researchers adding international coauthors to research that they were not involved in. Faking international collaboration may be to enhance academic prestige or get rewards for publishing with Western researchers.

Should-read: What the Fear of China Is Doing to American Science

Rory Truex, an assistant professor at Princeton, writes in The Atlantic: “The United States can address past and future conflicts of interest while also welcoming scientists of all backgrounds. A good first step would be a public review of the China Initiative, to allow Congress and the scientific community to understand more about how the initiative is being conducted and how much hard evidence it has collected of espionage and illicit activity on Beijing’s part. Lawmakers should also assess whether the Justice Department’s work includes protections against discriminatory investigation and prosecution. Such a review would be consistent with the Biden administration’s recent rebuke of racism directed at Asian Americans, and would signal to Chinese researchers that they are valued members of the American scientific community.”

Thank you for reading and engaging.

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 or on Twitter at @jjding99