China and the US are becoming the world’s biggest rivals in artificial intelligence: it’s Luke vs Darth Vader, Alien vs Predator, Rocky vs Ivan Drago. The Chinese government’s pivot to become the leader in this technology has created plenty of hype, but how are China’s ambitious AI aspirations playing out on the ground? Research by startup database IT Juzi and Tencent News offers a new view of China’s AI industry’s strengths and weaknesses.

The US is currently the definite champion in AI development, according to the data. There are 1.82 times more American AI companies than Chinese. Investments in the US are 1.54 higher than in China and the talent pool is 2.01 times larger. Out of the total number of AI companies in the world (2542 according to data from June 2017), the US hosts 42% of them, while China ranks second with 23%. The two countries beat Britain, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Singapore and other developed countries.

These strong AI foundations were built with the help of companies such as Google, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft which started their ascendance early. But that gap could close soon: China’s tech trinity BAT is also building its AI ecosystems. There is Baidu’s AI assistant/platform DuerOS, self-driving platform Apollo and deep learning platform Paddle Paddle. Alibaba has its Platform of Artificial Intelligence (PAI 2.0), the Tmall Genie voice assistant, and customer service chatbot Dian Xiaomi. Tencent has developed a cloud service, an open-source computing platform called Angel, Wechat AI, and robot reporter Dreamwriter.

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Masha Borak

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] technode.com. Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.