Ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed presidency, the people of China have welcomed the new year with the leader’s address. Recorded in his office, the contents of the regal bookshelf in the background have managed to grab attention during every address. This year, two new additions have garnered more attention than usual– books on artificial intelligence.
The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingo and Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane by Brett King, caught the eye of netizens who have been fervently scanning the leader’s collection of titles since his first address in 2014.
Besides appearing in the same frame as the president, the two books on AI could be interpreted by many as a prelude to China’s plans within the AI space in the coming year.
China’s increasing efforts towards fortifying its position in the AI landscape has regularly made headlines. In July 2017, China announced that it had created a road map for achieving its goal of becoming a world-leader in artificial intelligence by 2025. It also declared that it aimed to make its domestic AI industry worth $60 billion by 2025.
Even in the field of vehicular automation, China has made giant leaps. In December 2017, it was reported that China had granted permission for the testing of self driving cars on the roads of Beijing, making it one of the only few nations in the world to legally permit on-road testing of self-driving cars. It did so in order to encourage the application of artificial intelligence for transportation.
A few days in to 2018, it was reported that China is planning to build an AI research park in west Beijing on a budget of $2 billion. With the capacity to house over 400 companies, the AI park is expected to generate up to $5.6 billion as annual output.
The books adorning the president’s bookshelf seem to indicate that reports about his voracious reading appetite and refined reading preferences are true. Reportedly, the Chinese premier’s continuously growing collection of Western classics include War and Peace, The Old Man and the Sea, The Divine Comedy, Les Miserables, Homer’s The Odyssey, and The Chameleon among others. The Grey Rhino by Michele Wucker and Money Changes Everything by William N Goetzmann are said to be some of the books in his collection on business and economics.
Whether the presence of books on AI in the president’s new year address was a hidden message about China’s AI ambitions, is a matter of conjecture. But the red dragon seems to be well on its way towards achieving global dominance in AI.