China wants legal sector to be AI-powered by 2025

Supreme People's Court issues directive for an artificial intelligence network to be in place by 2025 to support and enhance legal services, but says court rulings will remain decisions made by judges.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

China wants its judicial sector to be supported by an artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure that must be in place by 2025. The directive aims to drive integration of AI with judicial work and enhance legal services. 

The country's highest court said all courts were required to implement a "competent" AI system in three years, according to a report by state-owned newspaper China Daily, pointing to guidelines released by the Supreme People's Court. 

The document stated that a "better regulated" and more effective infrastructure for AI use would support all processes needed in handling legal cases. This should encompass in-depth integration of AI, creation of smart courts, and higher level of "digital justice", the high court said. 

A more advanced application of AI, however, should not adversely affect national security or breach state secrets as well as violate personal data security, the document noted, stressing the importance of upholding the legitimacy and security of AI in legal cases. 

It added that rulings would remain decisions made by human judges, with AI tapped as supplemental references and tools to improve judges' efficiency and ease their load in trivial matters. An AI-powered system also would offer the public greater access to legal services and help resolve issues more effectively, the Supreme People's Court said. 

It further mandated that courts across the country focus their efforts on learning to use AI, so they would be able to identify irregularities in handling cases. 

According to China Daily, the high court over the past decade has been working to drive the adoption of technology in the sector. In May, it announced plans to set up a judicial blockchain-based alliance between Chinese courts and other sectors by 2025, with the aim to fuel the integration of law and technology and better support socioeconomic development. 

As of September, more than 90,000 mediation institutions and 350,000 mediators hopped on a platform developed by the Supreme People's Court to aid lawyers in resolve disputes online. In addition, the courts last year filed more than 11.43 million cases online. 

The Chinese government previously laid out plans to make AI the key driving force of the country's economic growth, including its goal to be a global leader in AI by 2030. 

In September this year, it said it would add another 50 high-tech zones by 2030, crediting these industrial development sites for fuelling China's GDP and achieving "breakthroughs" in AI, quantum computing, and 5G communications. The nation's first AI chip and quantum communication satellite were developed by scientists and companies working within the high-tech zones.


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