10.11.2023 Author: Vladimir Terehov

China at the AI Forum

China at the AI Forum

On November 1-2, the Bletchley Park mansion, located 80 km from the British capital, hosted a forum dedicated to the problems arising in connection with the widespread use of “artificial intelligence” systems in almost all spheres of human activity. We will omit here the question regarding the correctness of the name of these “intelligence” category systems, which in itself is highly debatable.

Although the organizers of this Forum called it “AI (Artificial Intelligence – ed.) Safety Summit”, only UK Prime Minister R. Sunak, U.S. Vice President K. Harris, UN Secretary-General A. Guterres and EU chief U. von der Leyen corresponded to the last word in the forum title out of about a hundred participants from 28 countries. Prime Minister of Japan F. Kishida attended it online.

But this does not diminish the significance of this Forum itself due to various related aspects. In this case, we will highlight perhaps the most remarkable one, related to the presence of the PRC delegation led by Vice Minister of Science and Technology Wu Zhaohui.

Although the organizers of the Forum refused to publish the list of invited foreign participants, based on the mentioned fact, it can be assumed that among the invitees there were no representatives of Taiwan, which in general was very actively involved in the issues under discussion. The island’s government is allocating $9.3 billion over the next 10 years to further develop the chip production sector (already high-level), as well as AI technologies. The scope of US-Taiwanese cooperation in this area is expanding.

Apparently, this was the initial condition put forward by Beijing for a positive response to London’s invitation to participate in the event being prepared. However, we cannot exclude the possibility that some Taiwanese representatives were still present in the meeting room, but silently, that is, without declaring their presence.

And here we move on to another aspect of AI issues, which is closely related to the previous one, due to its extreme politicization. Although there are substantive issues that can be discussed within the framework of this problem itself. Such conversations have been conducted with increasing caution for about two years on various (if not all) international platforms. This is despite the fact that the “essence” itself began to show distinctly back in the late 90s, when it became clear that a human did not stand a chance when playing chess against a programmed machine.

However, absolutely nothing terrible happened. Since the prototype of “artificial intelligence”, as they say, “put a human down” in the sphere of play, that is, a hobby that can be enjoyed in one’s free time (but this is not necessary) after solving the current problems in real life.

Therefore, the problem that arose (which was quite expected) was resolved easily and simply: the “chess players” were finally divided into humans and machines (behind the latter, however, there are also humans, but not so much chess players as systems engineers, programmers, and mathematicians). Once again, a person may not be interested in games at all without any harm (and, perhaps, even with benefit) to himself/herself.

This issue looks much more serious with the inevitable penetration of AI technologies into almost all areas of the above-mentioned real life, from which we cannot “separate” ourselves. Increased concerns have been raised regarding the use of such technologies in banking. But especially in the sphere of national security in the broadest interpretation of this category, including its defense-military component.

Thus, the agenda of the current UN General Assembly includes consideration of the possible consequences of the ongoing development of weapons systems that themselves (that is, without human control) determine targets and solve the problem of striking them. In terms of the level of radicality of innovations associated with such technologies introduced into military affairs, the emergence of nuclear weapons is compared with these latter ones. The adoption of a UN resolution on this issue is expected in December. So, it is not surprising that the UN Secretary-General is present at the discussed and very special Forum.

In a press release about the inclusion of this topic on the UN agenda, attention was drawn to the need to avoid the emergence of inequality in the field of AI technologies among individual states. But this is precisely what the efforts of the United States and its key allies have so far been focused on in their global confrontation with China and the Russian Federation. As always, the Chinese Global Times vividly reflected the recent situation in the field of AI technologies. To hide achievements in these technologies in a “box” and sit on it like a “miserly knight”, this was Washington’s strategy.

Laws adopted for this purpose were actually aimed at excluding the PRC from the system of international division of labor (from the “supply chains”) in the production of microelectronic circuits (“chips”), that is, the basic element of the formation of any AI technologies. Let us repeat that the U.S. closest allies were attracted for this purpose.

All generalized AI issues have so far been discussed with them in a narrow circle. In this regard, Japan took the most significant set of measures in the spring during the preparation and holding of the next G7 summit. One of the main outcomes of this summit was the Hiroshima AI Process initiative, in which certain guidelines were formulated for potential developers of “artificial intelligence” systems.

That is, the G7 participants claimed to demand from all other countries, but mainly from China, which was not even invited to such events and, naturally, did not participate in the development of the mentioned “principles,” to nevertheless adhere to these latter.

Apparently, the awareness of the absurdity and counterproductivity of such claims significantly explains the very fact of inviting the PRC to the latest (of a series of already held) Forum discussed here. The focus of attention of experts and government officials gathered at Bletchley Park was the same topic of developing certain rules, by adhering to which some of the participants in the current stage of the “Great World Game” would not receive a decisive advantage over others in the field of AI technologies. In this case, a certain analogy can be seen with the initial period of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, when their main owners faced a similar problem.

The second motive for inviting the PRC to this Forum is due, in the author’s opinion, to perhaps the main feature of the current balance of power at the table of the same game. This feature lies in the strategic positioning “back-to-back” of the two main opponents of the United States, that is, China and the Russian Federation. This is what the American leadership considers as the main challenge to the “unipolar” world order led by Washington that established with the end of the Cold War.

The strategy chosen in this situation by the latter seems quite natural, which consists in a qualitative difference in the signals sent to Beijing and Moscow. By initiating a continuous series of negotiations with the first, a game is played in imitation of “understanding” of its problems and readiness to discuss them. While tough rhetoric is addressed to Moscow, backed up by supporting the conflict in Ukraine, in which, as Washington believes, the Russian Federation is exhausting its available potential. Once again and in an obvious way, this strategy was reflected in the final document that ended the last US-EU summit.

However, for the first time, the PRC found itself participating in the latest in a series of events held by the United States, as well as its key allies (in this case, the British government) on the extremely pressing issue of the current stage of the “Great World Game.” Moreover, the signature of the PRC representative appeared next to the signatures of the representatives of the US, UK and EU under the brief joint “Declaration” (Political Declaration on the Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy). The Global Times commentary (regarding the very fact of China’s participation in this Forum) emphasizes the impossibility of ignoring the second world power in “global scale” issues.

In the author’s opinion, the final document of this event is, as they say, “permeated with the spirit” of all those problems mentioned above that accompanied the initial stage of the process of nuclear weapons proliferation. The further scenario for the development of this process was determined by the specific realities of that and subsequent times, which have long since sunk into oblivion.

Therefore, today it seems unproductive to make any predictions regarding how various (including political) aspects of AI issues will further develop, even in the near future,

which we can only imagine.


Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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