Last week, Google published job postings on its website looking to assemble an Artificial Intelligence (AI) team in Beijing, China. Although Google’s search engine business withdrew from the China market in 2010, it kept a research and development team as well as an ad sales team. Among all the overseas Internet companies that have opened offices in China, Google remains the one with the largest market capitalization.
As of September 2017, TensorFlow, an open-source software library for machine learning and Google’s biggest AI system, has more than 140,000 users in China. According to TensorFlow’s website, XiaoMi and JD.com, two of the largest technology companies in China, are prominent users.
A large influx of capital has been entering the AI industry in China. According to a report by NetEase and Wuzhen Institute, a think tank in China, $2.6 Billion was invested in AI in China between 2012 and mid-2016. This figure is one-seventh that of the United States and three times that of the United Kingdom. Tieniu Tan, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Vice Chairman of the Chinese Association of Artificial Intelligence, predicted that the market size for AI in China would exceed $200 Billion by 2018.
The Chinese government has been encouraging and supporting the development of the AI industry. In July 2017, it released the first national AI development plan, pointing out that AI will be the key engine in propelling China to be the primary economy in the world within the next 10 years. “There is no other country like China that has such a massive market. China has the resources to lead the global development of the AI industry,” said Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu.
“China has a lot of data from mobile payments, gaming, social, search and news,” said Kitty Fok, China managing director at consulting firm IDC, in an interview with Fox Business. “Technology companies like Google are keen to learn what’s going on and getting large amounts of data to create AI algorithms is very important to them.”