As next-generation artificial intelligence is booming around the world, the technology will play a bigger role in fueling industrial upgrade, carbon reduction, and high-quality development in China, according to speakers at the 19th Vision China event.
Jointly organized by China Daily and the Information Office of Tianjin Municipal People's Government, the event, titled "New Era of Intelligence: Empowering New Development, Fostering New Pattern", was broadcast online to a global audience on Thursday night. It coincided with the ongoing Fifth World Intelligence Congress, an event that started on the same day and runs until Sunday in Tianjin.
The WIC, which features both online and offline activities this year, has grown to become a new gateway to China, showcasing the country's readiness to cooperate with the world, said Chen Zhemin, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Tianjin Municipal Committee and head of the committee's Publicity Department.
"We strive to grow by 'bringing the world to Tianjin and opening Tianjin to the world,'" Chen said, adding that the city sees the manufacturing industry as its backbone and intelligent manufacturing as a path to greater strength.
According to him, a large number of domestic and international companies have set up shop in Tianjin. And numerous landmark projects have come to fruition in the city. The first four WICs, for instance, witnessed the inking of 348 cooperation agreements, which involved a total investment of 353.2 billion yuan ($55 billion).
Chen said the city will be a daring pioneer in developing intelligent technologies, and step up efforts to chart a new pattern of growth for the intelligent industry, encompassing sectors such as intelligent manufacturing, intelligent transport and intelligent healthcare.
Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, said "Next-generation artificial intelligence is booming around the world and creating significant shifts in the way we live and work. The intelligent industry has become a priority for many countries."
"China has been perfecting its innovation system and ramping up efforts to become a technology powerhouse," Zhou said. "China stands ready to work with the rest of world on artificial intelligence and share the fruits of research."
This year witnessed the release of the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, which set out China's vision for high-quality development.
"The outline has laid out plans on innovation and on how to harness intelligent technology to serve the development of the manufacturing, services, agriculture, emerging industries and other sectors," Zhou said.
According to him, following instructions from the central government, local governments in China have been implementing innovation-driven development strategies, and building "smart cities".
In particular, Zhou noted that Tianjin has been focusing on building a cluster of enterprises engaged in innovative application of information technology and has become a national leader in AI, as it strives to become more innovative and competitive.
Now, Tianjin is implementing a citywide drive to develop intelligent technologies, and it is home to more than 7,000 national high-tech enterprises, and over 7,000 national small and medium-sized tech companies, data from the Tianjin government show.
Every year, Tianjin-based entities invest over three percent of their earnings in research and development, helping the city remain among the top in a national ranking of technological innovation capabilities for many years running.
Alain Benichou, CEO of IBM Greater China Group, said AI can play an important part in helping companies match consumer expectations, increase core efficiencies and differentiate themselves, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates digital transformation.
"Here in China, I have seen CEOs across all industries such as banking, manufacturing, retail and telecom are now very focused on pushing forward with digitalization and AI," Benichou said.
He quoted a recent study commissioned by IBM that over half of Chinese IT professionals say their companies are using or considering using natural language processing solutions to improve customer experience.
Edward Tse, founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Company, said China is on the cusp of entering a new technological era as it witnesses new growth opportunities from new consumption forms and new business models across industries.
"The pandemic has driven a lot of changes in how we live life and how business models are being developed, which is picking back in on the development of technology," Tse said.
Chan Ching Chuen, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, highlighted the need for an integration of human, artificial intelligence, and environment to tackle the energy revolution that is going on around the world.
According to him, how to achieve sustainability, reliability, and affordability are three major challenges in the energy revolution, and as the energy network becomes increasingly complex, AI is needed to help people navigate such network.
But AI alone is not enough. AI plus human plus environment are the key, added Chan who is also the fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.
Wang Yu, research fellow at the College of Intelligence and Computing of Tianjin University, said "With the development of AI, industrial applications will blossom, and we will enter a new era of intelligence."
"The environment, for instance, will be more livable. AI can play a key role to help industries achieve intelligent production and achieve the goal of green and low-carbon development faster," Wang said.
At the opening ceremony of the fifth WIC on Thursday, Wan Gang, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said open cooperation is needed to promote the development and application of the new generation AI, which is a cross-border and interdisciplinary scientific exploration project.