Google's Return to China Foretells a Global Race to Deliver AI

Google opens first machine learning research lab in Asia with 'Google AI China Center'

The company has announced that it is setting up an artificial intelligence research center in Beijing, and according to Google, it's the first of its kind in Asia.

The Chinese government, however, has a different view when it comes to the internet, advocating for cybersovereignty, and Google's main products and services, such as the Google search engine, YouTube, and Gmail, are locked outside the Great Firewall, the country's vast censorship apparatus.

Google's most recent move to formalize its AI presence in the country is a tacit acknowledgment that companies and governments in China and the USA are locked in a race to determine how the art and science of AI will be applied around the world.

Schmidt said that Chinese people "tend to win numerous top spots" in Google's coding competitions. In a statement, the US firm said the research center is unique and the first of its kind in Asia. Microsoft, IBM and other Western and domestic stalwarts are busy hiring Chinese staff members in a field with a wide variety of potential applications. All three winning teams of the ImageNet Challenge in the past three years have been largely composed of Chinese researchers.

The company is only the latest big technology name to set up an A.I. shop in China to capitalize on growing skills and lavish state support. "Google is for everyone", Google CEO Sundar Pichai said past year, "We want to be in China serving Chinese users".

Google effectively left China in 2010, but the country's 730 million internet users make it too large a market to ignore.

Yesterday, it made a symbolically significant move towards working its way back, opening a China-based centre devoted to artificial intelligence. "Along with Dr. Jia Li, Head of Research and Development at Google Cloud AI, I'll be leading and coordinating the research".

Earlier in the month, Google's India-born chief executive Sundar Pichai said that a lot of the tech giant's work actually helps Chinese companies.

Google had previously revealed it was pushing to hire AI experts in the country, says Tech Crunch, and the announcement of a dedicated facility "isn't a sign that [it] will launch new services in China".

Like Google, most major US information technology companies can not ignore the booming growth market that is China. The Chinese center joins a list of similar overseas centers operating in New York, Toronto, London and Zurich.

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