Alphabet has disclosed that it is launching a research facility in China focusing on artificial intelligence. The Mountain View, California-based tech giant is aiming to take advantage of the talent that is available in the world’s most populous country despite the fact that most of the company’s products are prohibited in China.
According to Alphabet the research facility will be the first of a kind in Asia. Initially the research center will consist of a small team working from an existing office located in Beijing. The Chinese AI research center will add to other international AI research facilities that Alphabet has in other places such as Zurich, Switzerland; London, United Kingdom and Toronto, Canada.
Policy makers in China have voiced their strong support for artificial intelligence though strict rules have been imposed on foreign firms especially in the last one year. The online search engine of Alphabet is blocked in China as well as Gmail, Google Cloud and its app store. Cyber regulators in China have said that the reason they place restrictions on foreign internet platforms and media is because they want to block influences which could destabilize the country as well as contravene socialist ideas.
Despite the fact that the tightening restrictions are expected to make it hard for Alphabet to reintroduce its products in the Chinese market, the tech giant has recently been promoting the AI products it has to offer in the country. Earlier in the year a Go tournament was held by Google in the eastern parts of China where Ke Jie, the Go world champion, was pitted against the company’s AI product. Though the event received lots of publicity overseas, Chinese media barely made a mention of it.
At the beginning of December the chief executive officer of Google, Sundar Pichai, appeared at a conference organized by China’s Cyberspace Administration, the top cyber regulator in the country. However Pichai only discussing the potential of artificial intelligence and steered clear of discussing market access issues. According to observers Alphabet’s strategy is to build goodwill in the hopes that market access will be reinstated in future.
“[Demonstrating to China that you are] contributing to the country’s development through creating jobs, training engineers, and ultimately building a higher tech proficiency base helps build goodwill with China,” Marbridge Consulting’s managing director, Mark Natkin, said.
Five months ago Chinese policy makers announced plans of developing an AI industry generating approximately $60 billion annually by 2025. China also has ambitions of being the global leader in AI by 2030.