The War over AI
The STEM workforce in China has also rapidly expanded. The total number of Chinese universities grew from 1,792 to 2,560 between 2005 and 2015. 8 million Chinese students graduated from college in 2017, compared to approximately 1.9 million graduating with bachelor’s degrees and 1 million with associate’s degrees in the United States. The number of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees conferred in China increased from 359,000 in 2000 to 1.65 million in 2014.
China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest producer of natural sciences and engineering doctorates in 2007.
In addition, with ambitious science projects, generous salaries, and high levels of lab funding, China has made a concerted effort to recruit top foreign talent. The Thousand Talents Program offers scientists a one-million-yuan ($151,000) starting bonus. Foreign scientists receive additional incentives, such as subsidies for accommodation, visits home, and education.
The Department of Energy recently warned that talent programs were offering scientists at U.S. national labs hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars to conduct research in China.
According to the report Innovation and National Security published by Council on Foreign Relations the United States leadership in science and technology is at risk.
China is investing significant resources in developing new technologies, and after 2030 it will likely be the world’s largest spender on research and development. Although Beijing’s efforts to become a scientific power could help drive global growth and prosperity, and both the United States and China have benefited from bilateral investment and trade, Chinese theft of intellectual property and its market-manipulating industrial policies threaten the United States economic competitiveness and national security.
China in particular has ambitious plans to become a world leader in science, technology, and medicine. Between 1991 and 2015, China increased its R&D expenditures thirtyfold, averaging an 18 percent increase annually since 2000.
R&D expenditures rose to $254 billion in 2017, approximately 45 percent of U.S. R&D spending for that year. China’s GDP is growing and China is dedicating a greater portion of its economic resources to R&D, planning to eventually reach a spending target of 2.5 percent of GDP. It will likely equal or exceed the United States in overall R&D expenditures after 2030.
China overtook the United States in the production of scientific papers in 2016. According to a study by scientific publisher Elsevier and business news outlet Nikkei, China published more high-impact research papers than the United States did in twenty-three out of thirty research fields with clear technological applications.
China’s current five-year plan prescribes that the biotechnology sector should exceed 4 percent of GDP by 2020, and state, provincial, and local governments have invested more than $100 billion in the life sciences sector. For example, BGI (The Beijing Genomic Institute) is by some measures the largest genome-sequencing center in the world.
On AI, Beijing hopes to leverage massive amounts of data, permissive regulations, entrepreneurial firms, and government support to build an industry worth $150 billion by 2030. In 2017, China’s AI industry received nearly $26 billion in investment and financing. China surpassed the United States in volume of AI research in 2014, including in AI-related patent registration and articles on deep learning. China is also training a large number of specialists. 23 % of the accepted papers for the 2017 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference were from China, and AI authors in China were cited 44 % more in 2016 than they were in 2000.