China May Soon Lead the United States in Artificial Intelligence Research

New report finds that the U.S.’s lead is starting to erode

The technology has become the subject of a growing arms race between the two countries. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Kulp

China is hot on the United States’ heels when it comes to artificial intelligence research, according to a new report from Seattle nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

The analysis found that China has already surpassed the U.S. in the total number of AI-related papers produced and is on course to overtake it in the top 50 percent most-cited publications this year, top 10 percent next year and top 1 percent by 2025.

The finding comes as the technology has become the subject of a growing arms race between the two countries; China has vowed to lead the world in AI by 2030, while the Trump administration recently rolled out its own AI initiative in an effort to stay competitive.

According to venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee, author of the book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order, China is on track to beat the U.S. in overall AI capability in the next five years. But he claims the U.S. holds certain distinct advantages in business-related AI and sophisticated research, while China’s strengths lie in computer vision—things like facial, image and object recognition—and online AI.

This latest report shows that even the U.S.’s research lead is starting to erode as China invests heavily in education around AI to foster talent that’s in overall short supply. Nonetheless, Lee says research applications are generally a less meaningful advantage than other areas of AI in an academic environment where it tends to be publicly available and easily replicable by design.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.