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AI talent numbers in China set to rise
By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai ( China Daily USA )
Updated: 2017-07-14

China may be ranked seventh in terms of the number of technical talents in the field of cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI), but experts expect the country to rise in the rankings in the next decade.

Of the 1.9 million technical talents in the world, China accounts for just over 50,000 of them, according to a report published by networking site LinkedIn on July 6.

The United States, on the other hand, tops the rankings with its pool of 850,000.

India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and France were ranked second to sixth respectively.

"The core technique used in AI is closely related to computer science which the US has been a global leader in the past two decades. It has far more veteran professionals in the field than any other country," said Wang Di, vice-president of LinkedIn China.

AI talent numbers in China set to rise

Roughly one in six employees in the AI field in the US were born before 1970, a stark contrast to the 4 percent in China. The report also found that more than 70 percent of these individuals in the US have at least 10 years of work experience in the industry -the ratio in China is only about 38 percent.

However, industry experts forecast that China will rise in the rankings due to the great number of opportunities in a sizable market. Wang pointed out that the countries that are currently ranked ahead of China, except the US, cannot be compared to China when it comes to market potential. He noted that China might even be able to outperform the US in this aspect.

"Internet technology has in recent years transformed the daily lives of Chinese and the speed of the development of mobile payment and e-commerce in China has surpassed that in the US. This can also happen to AI development in the country," he said.

"Furthermore, some traditional industries in China have shown a more urgent need in upgrading AI technology. In other words, they can resort to using AI directly, bypassing the stage of informatization," he added.

In addition, there are also plans to boost the number of local technical talents. China's internet giant Baidu announced earlier this month that it intends to help raise the population of Chinese AI engineers in the country to 100,000 within three years.

According to industry insiders, the backflow of talents from overseas would also contribute significantly to the growing talent pool.

"The combined privileges of rising capital investment and strong policy support from the government will undoubtedly continue to attract Chinese employees working overseas to return," said Wu Gansha, founder and CEO of UISEE, a company that provides self-driving solutions.

The LinkedIn report showed that there are around 140,000 Chinese AI technical talents around the world today, with half of them working in the US, 1.4 times more than in China.

Meanwhile, the number of such individuals returning to the country has been on the rise. From 2013 to 2016, the number of talents returning after their overseas studies increased by 14 percent annually. The number of returnees who have overseas work experience also grew by 10 percent every year.

"Some of the reasons for people to return to China include jobs prospects that are as good as those overseas, as well as the greater availability of space to conduct experiments and test ideas," Wang said.

Academia is another factor driving up the number of technical talents in China.

According to Ma Shaoping, a professor of computer science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Chinese researchers were cited in more academic papers on AI technology and published a greater number of papers on this topic than their US counterparts in the past three years.

"Academic innovations will also bring about technological progress," he said.


(China Daily USA 07/14/2017 page9)