China takes the lead in AI research, prompting concerns over global competition

New research says that with 850 studies in the field of artificial general intelligence, China is at the forefront of the race to create machines with human capabilities; However, publically supervising research could further jeopardize transparency and ethical research

Raphael Kahan|
Between the years 2018-2022, Chinese researchers have published approximately 850 studies in the field of artificial general intelligence (AGI), putting the Asian superpower at the spearhead of the field's R&D (research and development) compared to the Western world, and specifically the United States.
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These numbers were gathered by researchers from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University in the U.S. The researchers explain that China is on a path that challenges emerging norms worldwide, under which most countries are attempting to monitor and regulate research to prevent potential misuse in the future.
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ChatGPT על רקע דגל סין
ChatGPT על רקע דגל סין
ChatGPT against the background of the Chinese flag
(Photo: daily_creativity /
The term "artificial general intelligence" refers to an AI system with human-level capabilities. The CSET researchers found that around 500 of the Chinese studies covered topics such as "practical AI applications" and "advanced technologies for AGI." In other words, China is actively engaging in the development of machines that can think like humans.
This is not the first time such allegations have been raised against China. As early as 2017, Chinese documents detailed the country's New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, which specifies the country's goals of building a "first-mover advantage in the development of AI." According to CSET researchers, this program is fully implemented, and they were even able to identify the universities that produced the leading studies in the field. Five hundred of those institutions are located in Beijing, perhaps illustrating the close involvement of the Chinese government in this matter.
The American researchers say that there is no way to know what research is being conducted in China by machines or research institutions outside the capital city, which may indicate that the Chinese are pursuing more advanced programs in other locations within the country. One of these locations may be Wuhan - the same city where the coronavirus outbreak originated, according to the researchers.
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A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digit, illustration
A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digit, illustration
China's technology
(Photo: Reuters)
In any case, the main red flag is that China seems to be taking it far past general AI research, and attempting to develop additional technologies such as human-machine interactions that would enable direct control of computers and machines through the human brain - similar to the research conducted by Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk.
It is further explained that the Chinese use researchers outside of China, although it is unclear what exactly their contribution to the research is. Nevertheless, the main chunk of research is indisputably conducted in China. Additionally, since the Chinese government may conceal its less successful studies, the investigators may be led to believe that the scope of research is much smaller than it actually is. This is a problem because it could impact competition between the West (with the U.S. on the frontline) and China, creating a "missile gap" phenomenon - an overestimation of the adversary's capabilities in a certain field, which may lead to uncontrolled development in the West, despite China potentially being far from true capabilities or technological leadership.
The researchers' conclusions are that attempts to broadly assess Chinese capabilities would result in the hiding of their efforts, turning all research worldwide into a kind of secretive strategic asset. Evidently, it would be much more difficult to publicly supervise research, because this could lead to unethical or flawed research. The researchers further recommend that American policymakers understand the strategic importance of AGI, as well as its limitations, while striving to be the first to obtain the technology. In other words, the U.S. should not arbitrarily restrict research in the West, but rather allow for some flexibility in the ethical, legal, societal, and moral rules governing those engaged in the field.
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