China is catching up to the United States in the ongoing rivalry for the top spot as the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI), research from a top think tank on science and technology revealed on Monday.
According to the 2020 report, the US holds the leading position at 44.6 out of 100 points, with China catching up at 32 points and the EU at 23.3 points, respectively.
While the US leads in startup investment and research and development (R&D), China was making significant progress and held the largest number of supercomputers in the world at 214, compared to 113 and 91 in the US and EU, respectively
“The Chinese government has made AI a top priority and the results are showing. The United States and European Union need to pay attention to what China is doing and respond, because nations that lead in the development and use of AI will shape its future and significantly improve their economic competitiveness, while those that fall behind risk losing competitiveness in key industries,” Daniel Castro, ITIF innovation centre director and lead report author said as quoted by the South China Morning Post.
But the EU was behind in investments, including venture capital and private equity funding, but scored higher in the number of published research papers compared with the US, the report added.
China, the EU and US had published 24,929, 20,418 and 16,233 reports on AI in 2018, respectively, it read.
The EU's AI capabilities had also been diminished by the United Kingdom's exit from the bloc "both in absolute terms and on a per-capita basis", the report added.
China Steps Up Made in 2025 Initiative, Funding Amid Trade War
The report comes amid China's increased efforts to invest in emerging technologies via a $1.4tn initiative in line with the State Council's Made in China programme aimed at decoupling the mainland from foreign technologies. The plan will invest in new technologies in AI, semiconductors, green energy, 5G and infrastructure, among many others, over the next five years.
The former Trump administration also blacklisted key Chinese firms such as Huawei, ZTE, Shanghai-based chipmaker SMIC, and over 70 others in recent months, citing national security concerns, which Beijing has repeatedly refuted as false.
Washington also blocked access to Beijing-based tech firm Xiaomi and telcos such as China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom in a last-ditch effort for US president Donald Trump to expand his administration's trade war before leaving office.