CHINA’s ambition to become the global leader in technology is no secret, and in recent times, the country has funneled a lot of funds and crafted policies towards achieving that goal.
Judging from the rise of Chinese tech giants and numerous other tech startups in the country in the last decade or so, this strategy appears to be working.
But as if the staggering growth isn’t enough, China’s coastal province of Zhejiang, the country’s own Silicon Valley that is home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, recently announced a pledge of more than US$17 billion to propel the tech industry in the next five years.
The pledge is part of a broader move by the government in China to increase competition among China’s tech companies, and stimulate the private sector, reported Reuters.
Zhejiang’s provincial, municipal, and county level governments will be using the funds to “boost up high-tech and internet companies as well as medical research and development.”
“We will also guide social capital and financial institutions to invest around CNY290 billion (US$42 billion),” Gao Yingzhong, Head of the Provincial Science and Technology Department, was quoted as saying.
China had so far depended on government subsidies to spur the growth of key sectors, but in 2014, the grants were replaced by what the government called “guidance funds” which essentially functioned as capital investments by private equity firms.
According to one report, as much as 2041 of these guidance funds were set up by different levels of governments in China, raising about US$500 billion in total.
The country’s Ministry of Science and Technology has pumped in US$430 million in eight AI research projects this year alone. And in the last two years, about US$1 billion was invested by the government in local startups.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a demand for the country to achieve an in-depth understanding of AI, and called the technology “an important driving force for the new round of scientific revolution.”
Developing the tech alone is not sufficient for China as Xi wants AI to be “deeply integrated” with China’s economic and social developments.
Since rolling out its strategic roadmap titled “New Generation AI Development Plan”, China has been firing on all cylinders in a bid to leapfrog the United States as the global leader in technology with a heavy focus on AI.
If these investments and funds continue to be channeled into the development of the digital economy, along with the significant treasure trove of data that China sits on, Beijing might soon overtake the US and lead the world in technology.
This article first appeared on our sister website Tech Wire Asia.