ChinAI #185: What's the most searched major in China?
Why parents are looking up AI majors in the college entrance exam process
Greetings from a world where…
home is where Iowa City is
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Feature Translation: AI ranks first in 2022 college entrance examination hotly searched majors
Context: Tomorrow, nearly 12 million students will take the gaokao (China’s college entrance exam). Their score on that test will not only determine the universities they can get into but also the major they can study. At the same university, it will take a higher score to get into a major that is more popular, as more people compete for a limited number of spots in fields linked to better employment prospects. Thus, after finishing the college entrance exam, students may face the following dilemma: “choose an unpopular major at a Project 985 (first-tier) institution or a popular/desired major at a Project 211 (second-tier) institution.”
The Project 211 and Project 985 labels are used to differentiate universities in China. Project 985 universities include the top 39 universities in China. At the second tier, 77 institutions are listed solely under the Project 211 designation.
How do students decide among majors? Per one survey by the Chinese Ministry of Education, most students know very little about the major they pick. Oftentimes they just default to what major earns the highest salary. Naturally, many people turn to online searches. This week’s article, from AItechtalk (AI科技评论), reviews which majors have attracted the highest uptick in Baidu searches in the month before the college entrance exam.
Key Takeaways: Baidu released a report on search data related to the 2022 college entrance exam. AI ranked as the most hotly searched major, and it has ranked the highest in popularity for three straight years.
Rounding out the rest of the top 5 were big data technology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and clinical medicine.
As the figure from Baidu’s report (image below) shows, majors related to international economics and finance dominated the hottest searched majors from 2013 to 2016, but “2017 was a turning point. In this year, the field of AI has entered the public's field of vision, and its ranking has steadily improved.” Nowadays, parents are increasingly favoring engineering fields (in blue).
Full translation includes a figure of which majors boast the highest increase in searches from the previous year’s period. Again, AI leads in this metric, followed by mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and automation, big dat technology, and food science and engineering.
Which school is best for AI?
Tsinghua is obviously at the top. The Yao Class (an AI class taught by Turing Award winner Andrew Yao) has produced a lot of high-profile AI talents. Peking University joins Tsinghua in the first tier. Shanghai Jiaotong University, Zhejiang University, USTC, and Harbin Institute of Technology (specifically its NLP program) also get shout-outs.
I was most intrigued by the options for “students who have low scores in the college entrance examination and are very interested in AI.” Hangzhou Dianzi University (杭州电子科技大学) is not in the 985/211 tiers, but its graduates are very popular with local companies in Hangzhou. The lack of prestige is not a hindrance; rather it “makes enterprises pay more attention to the practical experience of students.”
The article also includes good criticisms from netizens of how colleges and universities seem to be setting up AI majors and colleges overnight. Students need to leverage this “AI fever” to choose schools that actually understand how the major should train students and guide them to employment opportunities.
ChinAI Links (Four to Forward)
Really important contribution from CSET’s Ben Murphy on China’s tech dependencies: “China’s ‘Science and Technology Daily,’ a state-run newspaper, published a revealing series of articles in 2018 on 35 different Chinese technological import dependencies. The articles, accessible here in English for the first time, express concern that strategic Chinese industries are vulnerable to any disruption to their supply of specific U.S., Japanese, and European “chokepoint” technologies. This issue brief summarizes the article series and analyzes the Chinese perspective on these import dependencies and their causes.”
Should-read: AI trends to watch in 2022
This CB Insights report has a good overview of 7 AI trends to watch this year. One thing that caught my eye: a list of top-funded chip providers for AI workloads (including Chinese companies like Horizon Robotics and Biren Technology).
Should-read: Racial Profiling under the Economic Espionage Act
Stanford’s Center on China’s Economy and Institutions now consistently puts out “China Briefs” that summarize academic research on China-related issues. This recent one, based on a NBER working paper by Hanming Fang and Ming Li, finds: “Defendants of Chinese heritage were charged on average with more counts in their indictments under the Economic Espionage Act. But their cases were more likely to be dismissed at trial or acquitted by jury, and they were convicted on fewer counts. Defendants with Chinese names who were found guilty were more likely to receive harsher sentences than defendants with Western names. The evidence suggests the prosecutorial decisions of the Department of Justice may be tainted by ethnic prejudice against individuals of Chinese heritage.”
Should-read: Developing AI with MLOps (in Japanese)
While combing through past issues of Nikkei Computer for some research, I stumbled across the most recent issue of the magazine, which has a cool-sounding article on MLOps. There’s so much great Japanese-language analysis out there that could be translated.
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 postdoctoral fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, sponsored by Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.
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