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USA vs China: Who Wins the AI Competition?

AI: United States vs/ China
Competition between the United States and China is growing in the realm of AI. Credit: mikemacmarketing / CC BY 2.0 / Madhav-Malhotra-003 / CC0 / SKopp / jacobolus / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons / Arranged by Greek Reporter

The rivalry between the USA and China is the focus of the most critical geopolitical considerations, so it is no surprise that competition in the technological space is also a primary concern.

One area of technological competition that is most intense is in the domain of AI (artificial intelligence) because of its potential to significantly enhance productivity, economic performance, and military capabilities.

For now, the United States appears to hold the advantage in the development of AI technology but China is ambitious and well-positioned to innovate and make substantial progress too.

Who is winning the AI race: the USA or China?

“The race for AI dominance intensifies geopolitical rivalries, as countries seek to harness AI’s potential for economic advantage, technological supremacy, and influence over global norms and standards,” explains Brookings.

As a result, the balance of power vis à vis AI between the United States, the world’s sole superpower and largest economy, and China, the world’s second-largest economy and potential geostrategic challenger is the most important example of competition within this context.

The United States has largely been at the forefront of advancements in generative AI, showcasing its most significant public breakthrough in November with the introduction of the San Francisco-based OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT.

This milestone has sparked a surge of investment from Silicon Valley, with Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other competitors racing against OpenAI, backed by Microsoft to develop commercial applications utilizing increasingly sophisticated AI tools.

In comparison, China is considered to be more advanced in certain areas like image recognition, particularly in practical applications. Although most demonstrations of Chinese generative AI tools indicate that they still have significant room for development, there has been an explosion in the creation of startups in recent months.

Virtually every major Chinese technology player, including Baidu, ByteDance, Tencent, and Alibaba Group, has either unveiled ChatGPT competitors or announced plans to do so. In late June, Baidu announced that its ChatGPT-style service surpassed OpenAI’s pioneering product on several metrics.

Do Chinese tech developers have an edge?

Although most analysts generally think that the United States currently leads the way in AI development, some commentators have pointed to certain advantages held by China.

For example, Lee Kai-Fu, the author of the book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, argues that Chinese developers hold an edge over their American counterparts in some respects.

“They live in a world where speed is essential, copying is an accepted practice, and competitors will stop at nothing to win a new market,” wrote Lee.

“This rough-and-tumble environment makes a strong contrast to Silicon Valley, where copying is stigmatized and many companies are allowed to coast on the basis of one original idea or a lucky break,” he added.


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