China’s Xi Jinping warns of AI’s risk to state control

June 1, 2023
Xi Jinping AI

Generative AI has confronted the Chinese government with a dilemma – do they risk subverting socialist values by relaxing rules surrounding AI? Or risk lagging further behind in the race to AI supremacy? 

We’ve already seen how AI-generated content from ChatGPT and Midjourney can manipulate people or even markets, as was the case when an AI-generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon caused US markets to dip by 0.3%

These AIs are trained on billions of data points; they ingest views, opinions, and vast quantities of other data that are fused and synthesized together when the user interacts with the tool. Generative AI is intrinsically subversive – it’s a byproduct of its design. 

In a recent statement, Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke of generative AI, “We must be prepared for worst-case and extreme scenarios, and be ready to withstand the major test of high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.”

China is battling the nature of generative AI to harness its potential without damaging its political system. Beijing already labeled deep fakes as a “danger to national security and social stability,” and has drafted regulations to ensure AI reflects “core socialist values,” and don’t “contain content on subversion of state power.”

Regulations will chiefly impact Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, representing China’s tech powerhouse. 

China and AI: a dilemma of values

AI is testing China’s reputation for headstrong technological development. 

Technology and national security academics Bill Drexel and Hannah Kelly underscored this dilemma in a recent article published in Foreign Affairs, “China’s blithe attitude toward technological risk, the government’s reckless ambition, and Beijing’s crisis mismanagement are all on a collision course with the escalating dangers of AI.” 

China has already deployed controversial AIs for population monitoring, including a sophisticated surveillance system designed to identify Uighurs, a Muslim minority. Some 1 million Uighurs are currently being housed in ‘re-education camps.’

Despite the risks posed by AI, China is ramping up investment in domestic chip manufacturing to try and free itself from foreign imports from companies like Nvidia. However, fueling productivity without risking the subversion of the government’s social values could prove unmanageable.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.

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