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AI revolution reshaping China’s economy

The number of AI enterprises in China exceeds 4,300

SHANGHAI (XINHUA) – As China sees a boom in artificial intelligence (AI) this year, it indicates massive potential in reshaping the world’s second-largest economy.

Over 30 cutting-edge products, including deep-learning large language models and general-purpose humanoid robots, are making their global debut at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2023 in Shanghai.

Industry insiders and experts believe that China’s AI revolution demonstrates the country’s determination to push forward the digital economy and a new round of industrial revolution. AI technologies are transforming a wide range of industries, injecting further growth momentum into China’s economy as well as that of the world.

A robot performs shooting at the basket during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2023 in Shanghai, east China, July 6. PHOTO: XINHUA

AI frenzy

Over 400 companies are participating in the WAIC this year, occupying a sprawling exhibition area spanning 50,000 square meters. Both figures are at their highest levels since the inaugural event in 2018.

Since ChatGPT took the world by storm late last year, Chinese tech giants and start-ups have been rushing to join the AI race by launching similar AI chatbots one after another.

China has 79 major AI large language models, with tech giants including Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan and iFLYTEK all venturing into this field, according to a report released in May by a research centre affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

China’s AI industry is in the midst of a development boom, with the scale of the core industry at CNY500 billion (about USD69 billion) and the number of AI enterprises exceeding 4,300, according to Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xu Xiaolan.

China has been accelerating its construction of AI-related infrastructure, with the country’s total computing power already ranking second globally, Xu said.

“The strong demand for computing power provides a huge market, and domestic chip companies will have more opportunities given the tight supply of and export restrictions on foreign computing chips,” said Cai Quangen, Vice Chairman of chip maker Iluvatar CoreX.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday lauded China’s AI industry development while addressing the WAIC via video link. He said he expects China to have strong AI prowess in the future.

Liu Hongbin, with the Hong Kong Institute of Science and Innovation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, echoed similar views. Given the number of people working in AI-related fields, the advantage of a huge amount of AI data, the advanced AI infrastructure and supportive policies of the government, China will become a world leader in AI by 2030, Liu said.

Visitors watch humanoid robots dancing at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2023. PHOTO: XINHUA

Reshaping economy

Spawning a large number of applications for industries and scientific research, the AI boom is driving the development of China’s digital economy and reshaping the economic landscape.

More than 2,500 digital and intelligent workshops and factories have been built across the country, which has helped shorten the research and development cycle by 20.7 per cent and improve production efficiency by 34.8 per cent, according to Xu.

XtalPi Inc, a pharmaceutical technology company powered by AI and automation, exhibited a drug discovery automation solution at the AI event in Shanghai. Gu Liang, XtalPi’s chief technology officer, told Xinhua that its AI technology can help break through the speed bottleneck in chemical synthesis, improve the success rate of drug development experiments, and shorten the development cycles of new drugs.

Huawei on Friday launched its Pangu Large Model 3.0 at Huawei Cloud Developer Conference. It had sub-models for drug development, mining and railway transport.

“In addition to applications such as conversations, poetry writing and painting, the AI big models should be applied in real-economy fields including urban development, fintech, biomedicine, manufacturing and scientific research,” said Wu Hequan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

To date, AI large models in China have shown great potential for applications in fields such as smart mines, drug development, meteorology, e-government, finance, intelligent manufacturing, and railroad management.

“In the future, we will move towards an era of intelligent interaction, where people and machines are more seamlessly connected and machines are better equipped to help us accomplish greater tasks,” said He Xiaodong, head of JD Explore Academy. “AI large models will eventually shift to multimodality, bringing more innovation and possibilities to all industries.”

Visitors learn about the Pangu weather AI model of Huawei. PHOTO: XINHUA

Win-win opportunities

China takes the digital economy as an important means to promote economic transformation and high-quality development, said Tang Lan, head of the cyberspace governance research centre under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China has witnessed a significant increase in the size of its digital economy over the past seven years. According to a research report released Wednesday at the Global Digital Economy Conference 2023 in Beijing, from 2016 to 2022, the scale of China’s digital economy increased by USD4.1 trillion, with a compound annual growth rate of 14.2 per cent.

The scale of China’s digital economy reached CNY50.2 trillion in 2022, accounting for 41.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“Digital technologies are driving a new round of technological and industrial revolution and the development of China’s digital economy will continue to create a huge market space and bring about lots of win-win business opportunities for foreign investors,” Tang said.

China’s participation in the technological revolution will also help stimulate the sluggish global economy, she added.

Countries around the world should uphold an open and cooperative mindset and work together to resolve differences and reach a consensus to jointly build a community with a shared future in cyberspace, Tang said.