On May 28, the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI) released the “Beijing AI Principles,” an outline to guide the research and development, implementation, and governance of AI. Endorsed by Peking University; Tsinghua University; the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Automation and Institute of Computing Technology; and companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, the principles are the latest global entry in a long list of statements about what AI is and should be. On the surface, a bland and unsurprising take on AI ethics, the document actually pushes forward the global discussion on what AI should look like.

Bottom line: Say what you will about the current tension between the US and China, but the fact remains that the Western-built world order is slowly eroding and China is steadily filling in the gaps. While the principles were not written or endorsed by the State Council (the country’s chief administrative authority), BAAI is backed by the Ministry of Science and Technology which, very likely, approved the statement for publication.

Because it’s not a central government document, it does not carry the full weight of the leadership, but it is a step towards an official stance on ethical AI. It is the first public sector declaration of AI principles to come out of China, bringing Beijing into a conversation dominated by Western voices.

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John Artman

John Artman is the Editor in Chief for TechNode, the leading English information source for news and insight into China’s tech and startups, and co-host of the China Tech Talk podcast, a regular discussion...