Talent may be the key stumbling block in China’s AI dream. AI experts and practitioners play a crucial role in driving the fundamental innovations around AI, as well as implementing existing AI solutions in different domains. Recognizing this deficiency, both Chinese government actors and commercial players are aggressively building up and recruiting AI talent from around the world.
Most existing attempts to map global AI talent suffer from two flaws: 1) they only take a snapshot view of the talent landscape at a single moment in time; 2) they look at quantitative metrics without accounting for qualitative differences in talent and researcher skill. To address these two shortcomings, this section aims to examine both the growth and flow of Chinese AI talent over time and to differentiate between levels and quality of talent.
Explore the graphs below for a deeper dive into China’s strengths and weaknesses in AI talent:
The career trajectories of Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) PhD fellows, who represent another top pool of Chinese AI talent, further validate this trend: Nearly half of the 2009 and 2010 MSRA fellows who received funding for PhDs at Chinese universities have worked overseas after graduation. Past MSRA fellows have gone on to build China’s top AI startups, lead AI research at China’s top tech giants and universities, and take on leading roles in US tech giants.
AI Talent Circulation
The competition to attract and retain this base of talent—to set the direction of these flows—will shape the future of AI development.