ChinAI #72: An Overview of China's AI Industry in the form of a 50+ page PPT deck

We get reacquainted with excellent work by the Qianyan Chanye Research Institute

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Feature Translation: Qianzhan Chanye Report on China’s AI Industry

CONTEXT: Based on what I’ve read, Qianzhan’s (a consultancy/research institute) 50-page slide deck is the best open-source, overview-style report on China’s AI industry. I’d wager it’s probably better than the closed-source reports from Goldman, government departments, etc. I’m going to keep harping on this point: If you’re following China’s tech sector, you will miss a lot if you’re not looking at the output of orgs like Qianzhan, CCID, and other Chinese research firms, as these places are only going to scale up and get better.

  • I only had time this week to do a quick scan of the first 18 slides and did a few quick-and-dirty translations of interesting sections (if there’s no comment on the slide that means I probably didn’t do any translations on it).

  • ****I’ll circle back to this every now and then to translate more chunks, but if you’re keen to help out with the whole thing, let me know! In a previous issue, an anonymous ChinAI contributor and I translated a 5G PPT slide deck that went viral in China and became recommended reading for all Huawei staff. There’s been lots of good discussion happening in the comments of that translation, and I hope the same happens for this one.


  • Three-layer (Foundation-Technology-Application) division of China’s AI industry : Slide 5’s specification of the different layers of AI is the first clear sign that this is good stuff. Representative companies in the foundation layer (slide 6) includes usual suspects like Cambricon, Horizon Robotics in chips; Baidu, Haiyun Shuju in big data; BAT in cloud computing, Huawei in 5G.

  • What stood out about the representative companies in various layers of China’s AI industry (slide 6-8): Datatang is listed as a key big data company. We analyzed their involvement in a turning point case in personal information protection in ChinAI #19. Ultrapower shows up in more verticals than Alibaba and Tencent in the foundation layer — we did a ChinAI Company Profile of them in ChinAI #63.

  • Ping An is the most important company in China’s AI landscape that you’ve never heard of: nominally an insurance company but transforming quickly into a tech company, they are everywhere in the foundation (including cloud computing) and application layers. However, they don’t show up in any of the verticals in the technology layer.

  • Slide 18 on China’s AI talent Training System was particularly instructive:

It’s a nice overview of industry-academia joint AI institutes. We covered the iFlytek-Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications one in ChinAI #7. These types of schools may be just as important as the Tsinghuas and Pekings for the diffusion of AI advances across the whole country.

TRANSLATION IN PROGRESS: Qianzhan Chanye Report on China’s AI Industry

ChinAI Links (Four to Forward)

Must-read: DigiChina Special Report: AI Policy and China — Realities of State-Led Development (Edited by Graham Webster)

Big ups to Graham Webster and the Stanford-New America DigiChina team for an excellent report on China’s AI Policy. Each one of the pieces are worth a read, and I was impressed by the consistent effort to translate and analyze Chinese-language sources throughout. I learned a lot in particular from Siodhbhra Parkin’s piece on how AI can better serve people with disabilities in China (p. 33 of the report).

Must-listen: ChinAI Pod #2: Reframing Superintelligence with Eric Drexler

Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence is what got me really interested in AI in the first place; after joining FHI a couple years later, Eric Drexler’s report Reframing Superintelligence significantly shifted my view of superintelligence in a way that lived up to the report’s title. It was an honor to talk with the founding father of nanotechnology about his framework of Comprehensive AI Services.

If you like what you hear, pass it on! If you don’t like what you hear but are willing to take a chance on hearing more, let me know in a public setting so that I get the feedback and also promo for the pod. We should be on all the places you get your podcasts now (just search “ChinAI,” but if we’re not, you can paste this link into your podcast app and the feed should pop up:

Should-read: Translations related to China’s AI Policy by Center for Security and Emerging Technology

Ben Murphy, Chinese STEM Translation Lead at CSET, is doing fine work with these full text translations. A few notes from some of the translations that CSET has published. I plan to circle back every month or so and highlight what’s interesting from the translations.

1.Translation of Project to Strengthen Development of the Defense Technology Industry at the Grassroots Level: Guidelines for Basic Research and Cutting-Edge Technology Projects (2018)a notice to Chinese universities and research institutes on emerging technologies (including AI-related domains) that the PLA prioritizes, from SASTIND (a civilian agency that funds research in support of PLA requirements)

  • AI features heavily in three of the six themes: intelligent detection/identification and autonomous control technology; brain-machine intelligence and biological interdisciplinary technologies; highly reliable information security and new types of technology

  • Nothing in first 2 themes was that surprising (cloud-based intelligent target recognition and tracking, intelligent decision-making for virtual battlefield environments, intelligentized exoskeleton technology); the third theme was more interesting to me and included key tasks such as “intelligent mining technology” for firmware vulnerabilities as well as big data analysis-based intelligent fixed decryption technology for electronic documents

2.Translation of Tianjin Municipal Action Plan for Military-Civil Fusion Special Projects in Intelligent Technology (2018) — Wow this is a rich document with a lot of material in the translator’s footnotes

  • There’s a story/report waiting to be written about Tianjin’s technology policy (remember: Tianjin was one of the first cities to set up a big AI fund. “While many Chinese local governments have published military-civil fusion plans, Tianjin’s is among the most detailed,” per CSET’s summary.

  • A lot of the initiatives in here sound very ambitious (“build an authoritative IoT perception testing and authentication center for the state, military, and industrial sectors in Tianjin’s Binhai New District!”), but I’m also reminded of the empty promise of the Tianjin Eco-city.

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 Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, PhD candidate in International Relations, Researcher at GovAI/Future of Humanity Institute, and Research Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

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