ChinAI Newsletter #6: Whoever Obtains AI Talents Obtains Everything Under Heaven

Welcome to the ChinAI Newsletter!

These are Jeff Ding's weekly translations of writings on AI policy and strategy from Chinese thinkers. I'll also include general links to all things at the intersection of China and AI. Please share the subscription link if you think this stuff is cool.

I'm a grad student at the University of Oxford where I lead the Future of Humanity Institute - Governance of AI Program's research on China AI happenings.

Excerpts from Talent War: The Fierce Competition over the World's Most Scarce Resource

Theme of this issue is China's struggle for AI talents. A talent shortage may be the biggest bottleneck to AI development, and China has recognized that it is facing a shortage of AI talents.

Two translations this week. The first is a translation of some of the chapters from Dr. Wang Huiyao's book on the "Talent War." Dr. Wang is the Founder and President of the China Western (Overseas) Returned Scholars Association. Competition over AI talent doesn't occur in a vacuum; it takes place in the context of China's overall strategy toward attracting talented people. 

The book is framed as a series of very interesting questions:
- Why did the United States' "father of hydrogen bombs" and "father of computers" come from Europe?
- Why is that in the last decade one third of the high-tech companies in the United States had Indian or Chinese founders?
- Why do nearly 40% of U.S. science and engineering Ph.Ds come from foreign countries?
- Why do 22% of these foreign-born science and engineering Ph.Ds come from mainland China?
- Why is it that the proportion of Chinese Ph.D. students in science and engineering who have not returned to China ranks first in emerging countries?
- Why is that since 1985 80% of Tsinghua University high-skilled graduates and 76% of high-skilled graduates of Peking University went to the United States? And why is it that, since 2006, they have become the two universities with the largest number of doctoral students in American universities?
- Why has China sent more than 1.4 million international students, the world’s largest number of international students, but only around 300,000 of them have returned to China? Why did an official organization, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also have to admit that the number of top talents that China has lost is the highest in the world? 

Check out some of the chapters for how one of the leading Chinese thinkers in this space thinks about the issue. Dr. Wang and Dr. Zweig published an article titled "Can China Bring Back the Best? The Communist Party Organizes China's Search for Talent," which is also worth a read. 

Translation of Excerpts from Talent War Book

Tencent Book Chapter 17 on the Fight for Talent

As the subject line of this week's newsletter (a phrase used in this chapter) suggests, the fight for AI talent is also framed in the lens of a strategic struggle. The chapter summarizes the AI talent landscape for U.S., Japan, UK, and China. Two nuggets from the chapter:

1. On July 6, 2017, LinkedIn released a Global AI Talent report (in Mandarin only) which found that there are 1.9 million technical talents in the global AI field. The total number of U.S.-related talents exceeds 850,000, taking top place. The total number of China-related talents exceeds 50,000, ranking seventh in the world.

2. Internal competition for AI talent is fierce. Per the “BAT Artificial Intelligence Domain Talent Development Report," Baidu leads in terms of overall AI talent pool, but in Alibaba pays the most, while Tencent offers the most job stability. 

Translation of Tencent Book Chapter 17

This Week's ChinAI Links

Good example on how the U.S. needs to do better at retaining talented people: For ChinaFile, Shen Lu provides an honest and piercing (both politically and emotionally) story on the challenges for Western-educated Chinese students in pursuing their dreams in journalism. I saw Shen Lu's passion for journalism translate to advocacy for international students at at the University of Iowa.

More on AI and Civil-Military Fusionby Lorand Laksai, whose work led me to the White Paper on Civil-Military Fusion in last week's issue.

Wilson Center Policy Report on AI and PrivacyYujia He, in pages 13-15, provides some good social and historical context for China’s privacy protections
This week’s Belt and Road Monitor, a newsletter by the RWR Advisory Group, provided some great snapshots of how Chinese tech companies are expanding overseas: Tencent Cloud launched its first data center in Mumbai, India, which will serve as the company’s hub in South Asia; China’s Cloudwalk Technology and the government of Zimbabwe signed a strategic cooperation framework agreement to supply the country’s finance, public security, and airport sectors with AI tech - the first Chinese AI project in Africa. Subscribe here.
Just for fun, there’s a TV show (mixed reviews on douban) called 猎场 (Hunter) that is about head-hunting and poaching talented people.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

Please feel free to comment on any of my translations in the Google docs, and you can contact me at or on Twitter at @jjding99