National Goals, Local Implementation
In July 2017, the State Council’s New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan set a bold headline goal: make China “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2030. But the plan didn’t present a detailed roadmap for achieving that goal, something that would be impossible for promoting an omni-use technology like AI.
Instead, the headline goal acted as a high-profile signal to local government officials—mayors, university presidents, provincial transportation chiefs, etc.—that they would be rewarded for promoting AI in their jurisdiction. Those officials are responding by procuring AI products, subsidizing AI companies, and adapting both infrastructure and policies to promote the technology.
Though the national plan called for both commercial applications and fundamental research breakthroughs, these local projects have thus far focused heavily on pushing specific AI applications rather than advancing fundamental research in which the US clearly leads.
Some of these projects will fail, others will distort markets, and many are expanding China’s surveillance state. In that process, they are also giving hundreds of nudges to Chinese AI companies, creating new markets, and applying AI to a range of industries and public sector arenas.
Hover over the dots in the map to see examples of local government actions to promote AI applications. For more details on the selection of projects and coding of the map, click on Methodology in the sidebar.
Select AI-Related Government Projects at the Local Level