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Artificial intelligence: a new battlefield for US-China supremacy

2 mins

Markus Ivakha

Published by: Markus Ivakha

21 March 2024, 01:01PM

In Brief

US and China are in an AI race likened to the Cold War, with massive investments driving innovation.

China claims to be catching up with the US in AI, with rapid development highlighted at the National People’s Congress.

Microsoft leads in large language models with GenAI, giving the US an edge.

China has launched over 80 large language models, but faces challenges in advanced tech component manufacturing.

US restrictions on exporting key AI development components to China impact both nations' tech industries.

Artificial Intelligence: A New Battlefield For US-China Supremacy

Are the US and China facing a technology divide akin to the Cold War, but this time over artificial intelligence (AI)? Both countries have poured tons of money into AI, thanks to investments from big companies, governments, and other backers, pushing innovation forward at super speed.

But some wonder if China might be rushing too much. Not according to China's government and delegates at the recent National People’s Congress.

A CEO from 360 Security Technology told Bloomberg's Sarah Zheng at the Congress: “China's AI companies had developed quickly and basically managed to catch up to OpenAI's ChatGPT capabilities.” This suggests China might be keeping up with the US in AI.

When it comes to large language models, the US seems to be ahead. Microsoft, a major supporter of OpenAI, is leading the pack in the US with its GenAI technology. Analysts think Microsoft's increasing scale in GenAI could give it a strong edge in the US AI industry.

There's often debate about whether China has companies with the same AI expertise as OpenAI and Microsoft. Baidu Inc. made a splash with its Ernie Bot last March, seen as a sign of China's AI efforts.

Chinese AI developers have launched over 80 large language models, including ones by Alibaba and Huawei Cloud, according to the Bureau of Economy and Information Technology.

But can China keep up this pace? The US seems to have the upper hand. Last October, the Commerce Department tightened controls on exporting tech components crucial for AI development, like advanced semiconductors and GPUs. These components are key for training large language models.

According to Kendra Schaefer, a tech policy researcher at Trivium China, China is lagging 10 to 15 years behind in manufacturing high-end equipment and components.

Gregory Allen, from the Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies, noted that the US is blocking China from getting the best AI chips. This move hurts US companies, as they lose out on a massive market.

The US Technology ETF, which tracks top tech and AI stocks, took a hit in 2022 due to restrictions on US companies doing business with China.

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