China does not want to be left behind in the domain of artificial intelligence and the critical sector of semiconductor chips, two of the key legs of the global technology race and one of the sources of geopolitical tension with the United States. Aware that the economic and military strength of the future will gravitate to a large extent on these two fields, Beijing seeks to redouble its commitment to the development of national solutions at a time when Washington tries to limit access to cutting-edge technology that allows the Asian giant to produce high-end microchips. With million-dollar investments and clear guidelines from the country’s president, Xi Jinping, to achieve “self-sufficiency” in science and technology, for China the path lies partly through the implementation of open ecosystems that promote development at a higher speed. and succeed in accelerating the pace at which the gap with the West is closing.
“Compared to developed countries, there is still a gap in terms of algorithms and public and private support for artificial intelligence,” Mei Jianping, from the High Technology department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, acknowledged this Friday. Technology, during a presentation dedicated to this matter at the Zhongguancun technology forum. In the macro-event, organized these days in the homonymous technological neighborhood located on the outskirts of Beijing, artificial intelligence is one of the central issues. The speaker Mei has encouraged to “exchange ideas” and that all actors contribute to place “China’s new generation of AI” and the country’s scientific and technological industry on a par with the rest of the world.
The event has a strong political background, so it implies what is going on there, but often the conferences they descend to a technical level only suitable for experts in the sector. There are all kinds: on sustainable development, on financial technology, on smart cities, also on the search for young entrepreneurs “to change the world” and on the relevance of innovation in state-owned companies. In the one dedicated to AI, for example, Dr. Yu Yue, from the Strategic Alliance for Technological Innovation in the Artificial Intelligence Industry of China, assures: “We want each data center to achieve high-quality development. And also, horizontally, we want to connect data centers to carry out broad collaboration and build a network that ensures that AI computing can adopt a new development model.” He talks about an integration at the national level to promote the technological leap.
For the inauguration of the forum, held the previous day, President Xi sent a letter in which he did not go into so much detail, but in which he did underline —without expressly mentioning the blockade imposed by the United States— the need for greater collaboration globally. “As a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation unfolds, humanity needs international cooperation, openness and exchange more than ever to address common development problems,” it said in the letter, according to has published the official agency Xinhua. The inauguration had some renowned figure, such as Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who intervened electronically. “China will be able to make unique contributions by sharing its technologies and its lessons,” Gates said, according to Chinese state media.
The background of the forum is marked by relations between Beijing and Washington, which are in a deep hole due to the repeated scuffles around Taiwan, to which was added in February the shooting down by Washington of an alleged Chinese spy balloon that He was flying over US territory without permission. These last few weeks have also seen signs of a “thaw”, a word that the US president came to utter after the G-7 summit in Hiroshima (Japan) last weekend.
Another symptom of this détente has been the “frank” meeting (according to the US government) held this Thursday in Washington between the Chinese Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao, and his US counterpart, Gina Raimondo, in which they also discussed the claws in the chip sector: Beijing has made Washington ugly on its “economic and trade policies, and semiconductors, as well as export control issues,” according to Xinhua; Raimondo has expressed her concern about China’s growing siege against US interests based in the Asian giant, such as the recent ban on semiconductors from the US company Micron in key infrastructure projects.
This latest movement by Beijing is interpreted in part as a reaction to the blockade that Washington imposed in October on the export to China of the technologies that allow the manufacture of the most advanced chips, with the intention of preventing Chinese development of the most advanced weapons. sophisticated. These microprocessors are also needed in the field of AI and in the development of cutting-edge technologies, such as smart electric vehicles. In addition, Taiwan plays a leading role in the mess, where about 60% of the world’s chips and 90% of the most cutting-edge ones are produced (the three-nanometer ones are already being developed there; while China is still lagging behind). . In an unusual remark, Xi accused the United States in March of leading a Western “contain, encircle and suppress” strategy against China that seeks to jeopardize the country’s development.
In the forum, in any case, there is confidence: “We will overcome this problem in the near future, we have already done it at other times in history,” says Huo Jiaqi, 23, a postgraduate student who is in an exhibitor from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, one of the most prestigious in the fields of wired and wireless communications, computer science and electronic engineering. Around him, in a huge space dedicated to displaying technological advances, there is everything: intelligent humanoids, police robots, drones and avatars destined for the metaverse that waddle on an LED screen.
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