China’s AI chipmakers closing gap on global leaders

Official Beijing has been placed on a US investment blacklist as part of American sanctions curbing the country’s advances in AI.

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China’s domestic AI chipmakers are rapidly closing the gap on international leaders, according to Xu Bing, co-founder of SenseTime Group Inc. Despite the significant lag in computational power compared to the US, China possesses the talent and data necessary to advance in the AI field, Xu stated during an interview at the UBS Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong. SenseTime, a leading AI company in China, faces challenges due to US sanctions that restrict access to advanced AI technology, such as Nvidia’s accelerators.

The US trade controls have spurred the development of domestic alternatives from companies like Huawei Technologies and Shanghai Biren Technology, both also affected by US restrictions. Xu emphasised that although Asia faces a considerable shortfall in computational resources, the region is abundant in talent and data. He noted that China’s AI chip industry is catching up quickly, with SenseTime collaborating with local semiconductor firms to enhance their computing capabilities.

While the exact gap between Chinese and US AI technology is uncertain, estimated between one to three years, Xu is optimistic that this disadvantage in computing power will be temporary. He believes that, over time, the disparity in computing resources will diminish, viewing computing power as a commodity China will eventually acquire in sufficient quantity. Notable Chinese companies making strides in AI chips include Moore Threads Intelligent Beijing Co., Huawei, and other key players like Baidu Inc. and Naura Technology Group Ltd, which have received government attention and support.