IF YOU BUILD IT

China is building a $2 billion office park in Beijing just for AI

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Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon
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Last year, China said it plans to be a world leader in AI by 2030. Now its capital is building a massive campus to house the AI firms that will power that rise, according to local media outlet Beijing News (link in Chinese).

Authorities in Beijing’s Mentougou district will build the tech campus along with Zhongguancun Development Group, a company that has built several similar technology parks in China. They plan to invest 13.8 billion yuan (about $2.1 billion) in the 548,700 square-meter park, and hope to to attract over 400 enterprises. Construction will be completed within three to five years.

The park, which will count on 5G telecom and have a supercomputer, will focus on developing areas such as high-speed big data, cloud computing, biometric identification, deep learning, state-run news agency Xinhua added.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese authorities to fund office parks that house tech companies. Innoway, a 200-meter strip that’s a major startup hub in Beijing, was financed via a $36 million investment from the government. In Shenzhen, Shenzhen Software Industry Base, financed by a local state-owned enterprise, is a 123,000 square meter park that houses a number of tech companies. It contains an ominous sculpture bearing the phrase “Follow our party, start your business,” highlighting the Chinese Communist Party’s rush to promote tech entrepreneurship.

Yet this newly-announced park demonstrates how serious the party is when it comes to promoting AI in particular. This past year, Chinese AI companies have blossomed while the government has launched policy initiatives intending to help the sector move forward.

In July, soon after Google’s AlphaGo defeated Chinese champion Ke Jie at a series of Go matches, China’s state council unveiled the “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan,” a policy directive that called for China to become “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2030. Meanwhile, domestic artificial intelligence companies like SenseTime and Megvii have seen their valuations soar, thanks in part due to funding or business deals with government entities.

Perhaps the most telling signal to date of China’s commitment to developing AI arrived when Chinese internet users this week spotted two books about AI sitting on president Xi Jinping’s bookshelf during his annual New Year’s Day address.