Chinese tech developments

Chinese tech developments

Technology competition from China is mounting. Some of the rivalry is still at an early stage, but in other fields China is already ahead. For instance, China is frontrunner in AI regulations, while in semiconductor manufacturing the country is making progress, despite western sanctions.

AI regulations may see a “Beijing effect”

While the EU is still working on the AI Act, its regulatory scheme for artificial intelligence, China has already adopted a range of AI regulations. Quite similar to the European plans, the Chinese rules are supposed to protect consumers against unfair business practices, make sure algorithms are transparent and ensure that humans remain in control. Nevertheless, there are differences too. First, the Chinese rules apply to businesses only and do not affect the use of AI by the state itself. Second – matching its societal vision – Chinese rules are mostly concerned with common interests, seeking to promote equality (e.g. non-discriminatory pricing of services), stability (e.g. promoting Chinese values) and transparency. The EU, by contrast, is more concerned with individual interests and focuses on the privacy and autonomy of citizens. With China moving so quickly, Europe may miss the chance to become the de facto global rule setter and thus impose its values, norms and economic interests (the so-called “Brussels effect”). Instead, a “Beijing effect” could materialize, as (some of) the Chinese rules may set the tone for AI regulation across the globe.

Broaden Your Horizons

  • The EU’s AI governance policy is one of the most progressive and human-centric. Nevertheless, The Next Web provides a critical review of its ‘Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI’.
  • To remain a world leader in the semiconductor industry, Intel is adapting its traditional way of doing business. This FT article tells how.
  • A new type of chip can identify specific sequences of genetic material within minutes. This would enable faster and cheaper medical diagnosis (e.g. detecting Covid-19) and measuring environmental pollution.

Semiconductors are China’s weak spot, but for how long?

Although China may be leading in regulating AI, according to President Xi Jinping, the country’s “greatest hidden danger” is its reliance on foreign technology in the semiconductor industry. Since 2014, the country has poured billions of dollars into developing its industry through the state-owned semiconductor “Big Fund”, with mixed results. While China has set itself the target to become largely self-sufficient by 2025, today, it controls less than 10% of the worldwide semiconductor market. Meanwhile, China is facing increasing opposition from the US. The passing of the Chips Act, which will inject $52 billion to strengthen US domestic semiconductor production, is intended to incentivize the world’s top semiconductor makers to turn away from China. Moreover, the US has also imposed export controls that should restrict companies from providing advanced chip technology to China. Against industry expectations, however, and despite the technical challenges, Chinese semiconductor manufacturer SMIC has succeeded at producing advanced 7nm semiconductors. The question is if SMIC, being confined to the use of more complex and expensive production methods, will be able to manufacture these semiconductors at scale in a viable way.

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