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China’s AI ambitions

Posted November. 22, 2018 07:29,   

Updated November. 22, 2018 07:29


During a panel discussion session of the “Samsung Future Tech Forum” held in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese AI maker startup Suiyuan Technology CEO Zhao Lidong frankly talked about the difficulties Chinese AI and semiconductor industries are experiencing due to the trade war between the U.S. and China.

In spite of Zhao’s concerns, the U.S. Department of Commerce on Monday said it is considering curbs on exports of 14 advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence and robotics. It did not mention China but the move is intended to prevent China’s rise in the semiconductor industry. China has taken an action, too. Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged innovation in the AI sector, asking the industry to focus on developing core technologies.

“The AI industry is still in the initial stage both in the U.S. and China. I wish the future will be bright for China,” said Xie Guangjun, vice general manager of Baidu Cloud, during the panel discussion. He viewed that China would hold a dominant position in the field thanks to the Chinese government’s strong support. He was confident that China would not be affected by U.S. pressure as the field is in its nascent stage of development in both countries.

“China will not be able to catch up with the leaders in the computer or semiconductor industry. But when it comes to AI, both China and the U.S. are standing in the start line,” said Zhao Lidong. “AI and semiconductor sounded like building castles in the air for China five years ago. But it is not a dream anymore with the government’s support, investment from the capital market, and collaboration with international companies."

"I think we are far more competitive than China," Choi Cheol, executive vice president and head of the Device Solutions China regional office at Samsung Electronics, said Thursday about China’s rise in the semiconductor industry. “The leader (Samsung Electronics) does not follow the market trend, but it creates a market by itself,” he expressed confidence when talking about China’s plans to mass produce its own memory chips.

On the following day, however, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said they found “massive evidence” of anti-competitive behavior by the world’s top three chip makers, Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron, suggesting sanctions against them.

China, which has the largest semiconductor market in the world, is making a move to keep the Korean semiconductor industry in check. While fighting against the U.S.’ export ban on AI, China would make desperate efforts to catch up with Korea in the semiconductor market.

It seemed that Beijing and Chinese tech companies could not wait to see the day when they can say that China has overtaken Samsung in the semiconductor market and it is not a competitor anymore.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com