On Thursday, July 20, the country’s State Council released the New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. Numbering nearly 40 pages, the plan lays out China’s aspirations in impressive detail. It introduces massive investment that aims to position China at the forefront of technological achievement by cultivating the governmental, economic, and academic ecosystems to drive breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. It aims to harness the data that is generated by millions of intelligent things currently used by the Chinese population to be used as fuel for their artificial intelligence.
The plan also details the strategic situation precipitating the need for a bold new vision: “Artificial intelligence [is] the strategic technology that will lead in the future; the world’s major developed countries are taking the development of AI as a major strategy… [We] must, looking at the world, take the initiative to plan [and] firmly seize the [technology] in this new stage of international competition.”
The China State Council’s plan evokes a document that marked the beginning of the defining global technological competition of the last century–the Space Race. In August 1958, 10 months after watching the Soviet Union launch Sputnik 1, President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration released the U.S. Policy on Outer Space. In it, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) urged massive investment to cultivate the talent and technology base necessary to exceed the Soviet Union’s achievements in space.
The NSC included an urgent mandate to act, declaring, “The starkest facts which confront the United States in the immediate and foreseeable future are [that] the USSR has surpassed the U.S. and the Free World in scientific and technological accomplishments in outer space, [and] if it maintains its present superiority…will be able to use [it] as a means of undermining the prestige and leadership of the United States.”