ChinAI Newsletter #7: it's the education stupid - all about China's AI education push

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. Archive of past issues.

I'm a grad student at the University of Oxford where I'm the China lead for the Governance of AI Program, Future of Humanity Institute.

The current status of AI education in domestic universities: urgently needed to establish a first-level discipline and strengthen industry-university integration

Only one new translation this issue. Submitted thesis today, so will be back with more next week. Hit me up if you want to read 97 pages and 25,000 words on China's 'charm offensive' in Africa.

Translation this week is of a very interesting longform article by, an online digital media startup behind Sixth Tone. Article has a surprising number of substantive quotes from university and industry leaders on the current state of China's AI education push.

Key takeaways: 
- implementation of the State Council's AI Development plan in 'training' AI talent through education is moving fast. Already more than 50 universities and colleges have set up approved “Intelligent Science and Technology” majors. Many universities have also set up specialized AI institutes. 

-A first-level discipline for ‘Intelligent Science and Technology’ is in the process of being officially approved. It would join 111 other first-level disciplines (e.g. political science, law). Seems to correspond with China's impulse to centralize AI development, due to a concern that “the teaching and research activities of artificial intelligence are mostly scattered among other first-level disciplines”

- There's a section on innovation for AI textbooks. Anyone who has studied in China knows why this is a sticking point (many of the textbooks are translations of Western texts)

Shortage of AI teachers is a major issue in China. China is pursuing two ways to address this: 1) improving industry-academia integration: article gives an inside look at the Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications + iFlytek collaboration which is looking to address this; 2) attracting and training more AI professors and teachers: article mentions the Minisntry of Education-Peking University “International Training Program for Artificial Intelligence (AI) talent in Chinese Universities” which aims to train 500 teachers and 5000 students within five years.

Translation of longform article on China's AI Education Push

Collection of Tencent book translations for new subscribers

For new subscribers, here's the link where I'm organizing all the translated chapters for the Tencent book. There's some background on the book as well in the following link. Please do not share widely without checking with me.

Collection of Tencent Book Tranlsations

This Week's ChinAI Links

Must-read on how Chinese facial recognition companies like Sensetime actually work, by Josh Horwitz for Quartz.Great article by Elsa Kania on reframing AI arms race: generally a good idea to read everything Elsa writes, but wanted to highlight this one from last week.

Wired Longreads piece on China's children as its 'secret weapon' in the global AI arms race: some good reporting here, but had some qualms with weaponizing children as players in a not-very-clearly defined arms race, as well as the citation of the 2013 Shanghai PISA scores, which had a lot of methodological issues.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

Shout out to everyone who is commenting on the translations - idea is to build up a community of people interested in this stuff. You can contact me at or on Twitter at @jjding99