China asserts itself as the rising AI superpower in new research rankings

8 Nov 2017

Campus of Tsinghua University, China. Image: EQRoy/Shutterstock

In the modern-day space race to achieve the most powerful AI, China is rapidly catching up with its biggest rival: the US.

Just as the Soviet Union and the US spent huge sums of money to outdo each other in the space race, the US and China are now investing even more money on research into artificial intelligence (AI).

Now, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, the Chinese have quickly caught up with their rival in terms of the number of research papers its organisations have been cited in relating to breakthrough AI discoveries.

Based on data obtained by academic publishing house Elsevier, Microsoft maintains the top spot globally with 6,528 research papers quoted, but Nanyang Technological University is not far behind with 6,015.

In third place is another Chinese institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has almost 5,000 papers citied.

China’s masterplan

Of the top 100 organisations in the world, 15 are now Chinese.

According to the report, China’s universities are now breeding grounds for the latest in AI research, thanks in large part to a national endeavour to make it worthwhile for top AI researchers to come home from the US.  This, in turn, trickles down to the country’s smaller universities.

Investment in AI by the Chinese government has been substantial of late, with an announcement in July outlining its aims to create an AI industry worth $150bn by 2030.

Japan in decline, growth in Singapore

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore also showed itself to be one of the highest-performing AI research hubs in the continent, with three institutions in the top 100.

Speaking with the Nikkei Asian Review, Yuichiro Anzai, president of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, attributed this to a similar approach it is taking in China.

Anzai added that Singapore is luring overseas AI researchers from American universities and major tech companies, and has gone out of its way to foster the best environment for its organisations and institutions to conduct AI research.

Meanwhile, Japan’s influence has dropped considerably in the space of a decade. While 19 of its universities were once in the top 500, it now only has six.

Campus of Tsinghua University, China. Image: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic