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Tech competition: China wants AI academies to keep tech talent supply going

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China is preparing to establish independent AI academies in Shanghai and Beijing, a move aimed at nurturing the talent needed to grow the artificial intelligence industry, reported the South China Morning Post, citing an award-winning AI expert.

Zhu Songchun, a distinguished member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the head of the School of Intelligence Science and Technology at Peking University said that the Ministry of Education, entrusted with overseeing these academies, intends to push for more of the institutes in more provinces.

Advocating for a more globally inclusive approach, Zhu stressed the importance of Chinese academic institutions embracing international collaboration to spearhead the nation’s technological innovation.

Speaking at a CPPCC assembly on May 11, Zhu emphasised the imperative to invigorate the academic landscape and attract talent from across the globe.

“[We] should revitalise the academic community and intensify efforts to attract international talents,” Zhu was quoted as saying by CPPCC Daily, a media outlet affiliated with China’s top political advisory body.

“Currently, artificial intelligence is at the forefront of global technological competition and presents both challenges and opportunities for the quality of China’s population, job market, educational reform and technological innovation,” he added.

While the timeline for establishing these AI academies remains unspecified, Zhu said China should ensure equitable treatment of foreign AI experts and students seeking opportunities in China. He also proposed leveraging private foundations to attract global talent in the AI domain.

Zhu also advocated the development of an “innovation vitality index” and expanding AI education initiatives in Chinese universities. This includes integrating AI training across various disciplines to equip college students with essential skills.

Responding to Zhu’s propositions, Long Teng, China’s vice-minister of science and technology, affirmed the nation’s commitment to promoting international talent exchanges, particularly in fields like AI. He said he would create standards for recognising foreign talent with expertise in high-demand areas.

This comes as Beijing intensifies its efforts in artificial intelligence to build a high-quality, talented tech force and revitalise its sluggish economy.

Recognising AI as a potentially transformative force, Beijing seeks to address long-standing economic challenges, such as a shrinking workforce and declining fertility rates, which have persisted since the emergence of California-based OpenAI over a year ago.

The pursuit of international talent becomes pronounced as AI assumes a pivotal role in the escalating competition between the United States and China in science and technology, further accentuating rivalries encompassing the South China Sea, trade, and ideology.

First Published: May 21 2024 | 12:24 PM IST

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