The recent US ban on selling components to China’s state-owned communication technology ZTE has become a boon for China’s chip makers. Bytedance—the company behind AI-powered news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao—has set its eyes on developing its own AI chips.

Bytedance has the largest number of users in the world whose videos need to be analyzed and processed and uploaded, and we are purchasing a large number of chips. At present, we are actively seeking breakthroughs in the chip-related field, Vice-President of Bytedance Yang Zhenyuan told 36Kr (in Chinese). He did not, however, provide any specifics on the products being developed.

The news comes only a few days after Alibaba announced the creation of its neural network chip, the Ali-NPU, which will be used in AI applications for businesses through the Ali Cloud. Just one day after the announcement, Alibaba also revealed it will fully acquire local chipmaker C-SKY Microsystems.

Yang also told reporters that although the “ZTE event” reflects the weakness of China’s high-tech industries in key chips and core components, the country still has the opportunity to seek new breakthroughs in the emerging direction of AI chips. However, it will take a long time to reach international levels in the high-end chip field; the R&D cycle will be very long, Yang added.

In the short term, China has the ability to achieve a balanced situation through some areas of leadership (such as artificial intelligence, software ecology and other fields), which can lay the foundation for long-term independent research and development, Yang added. While the US technology giants Facebook and Google are independently developing AI chips, domestic internet giants are also laying out a map, he noted.

Bytedance is not just eyeing AI development, it is also preparing an aggressive expansion overseas. CEO of Bytedance Zhang Yiming revealed at the sixth anniversary of Toutiao that the main keyword for the company in 2018 will be globalization. Their goal is to have more than half of their users from overseas in the next three years.

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

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