China identifies 17 key areas to make AI breakthroughs

The Chinese government is also inviting private entities and research institutions to join the development of key AI projects as the country aims to lead global AI races by 2030.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has identified 17 key areas as priority for artificial intelligence (AI) development through inviting private enterprises and research institutions to lead key projects and set up near-term targets for 2020, as the country is determined to compete with the US in the global AI races with an aim to lead the competition by 2030.

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The 17 key areas for AI development in China include intelligent vehicles, intelligent service robots, intelligent drones, neural network chips, and intelligent manufacturing among others, the official ministry said last week according to a Sina news report.

The move aims to "select a group of enterprises and scientific research institutions that have mastered the key AI technologies, have strong innovation capabilities, and have great development potential", to break the bottleneck in China's AI development, cultivate a force of enterprises in innovation and development, accelerate deep integration between China's AI industry and economy, and promote innovation and development, according to the notice.

By 2020, China are hoping to make breakthroughs in key technologies such as smart chips for autonomous driving, vehicle intelligent algorithms, and vehicle communications.

Intelligent service robots should be able to achieve environment perception, natural interaction, independent learning and human-machine collaboration, with China hoping that they can be mass produced for home and public service purposes, according to the notice.

The new generation of industrial robots should also be able to conduct human-machine coordination, natural interaction, self-learning functions, and a realisation of mass production and application, MIIT said in the notice. The MIIT also aims to achieve the goal of broadband access rates being over 90 percent, as well as broadband delays in the country meeting the AI industry's application needs.

China's three-year plan for 2020 plans to serve the country's greater ambition of becoming a global leader in AI deployment by 2030. An earlier government plan that was unveiled in 2017 stated that China plans to become a world leader in AI development, forecasting that its domestic AI industry will be worth US$150 billion by 2030. To achieve this goal, China will need catch up with the US on AI technology and applications as soon as 2020, the Chinese government said.

The Chinese government is pushing for AI development through the use of both public and private powers, and AI professionals have continued to become more valuable in China. Doctoral students in AI-related majors could be paid as high as 800,000 yuan (US$115,234) per year, which is an increase of up to 60 percent from the annual salary of 500,000 yuan (US$72,021) of last year, as technology giants and startups are all paying generously to compete for AI talents, said a NetEase report on Monday.

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