Sharp changes are afoot throughout the globe. Demographics are shifting, technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, and these changes are being felt everywhere. How should we develop strategies to deal with this emerging new world? We can begin by understanding it.
Aspirational goal-setting has been a motivating form of governance for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In a 1957 international meeting of communist leaders in Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev proposed a goal that the Soviet Union catch up with U.S. industrial output within 15 years; Mao Zedong countered, in turn, that within the same time frame China would not just catch up with but surpass the United Kingdom. The result was the disastrous Great Leap Forward and its resulting famine.
As China and the United States enter a new era, in which rivalry and confrontation are starting to extend across all dimensions of this bilateral relationship, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a new frontier of strategic competition. Evidently, nations worldwide recognize the strategic significance of AI technologies to the future of economic development and military modernization. As such, it is hardly surprising that the United States and China have prioritized AI, though taking quite different approaches to policy.
After nearly four decades as the “factory of the world,”China today is stepping into a new role in the global economy: as a hub for innovative applications of artificial intelligence.According to one recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, of the $15.7 trillion in global wealth AI is expected to generate by 2030, a full $7 trillion will occur in China alone.
The adoption of the Internet by the Chinese government in the 1990s was part of China’s ambitious economic reform and opening up. Introducing information and communication technology was seen as a pathway toward innovation, attraction of foreign direct investment, and global competitiveness. In the past two decades, China has significantly reaped the benefits of the Internet. It is now at the forefront of digital revolution. China is moving quickly toward a cashless economy and leads the world in digital commerce, accounting for 40 percent of global e-commerce transactions.
Over the last forty years, China has stunned the world with the brilliant success of its reform and openness policies in modernizing China at a pace never seen before in world history. Forty years after launching these policies, the size of China’s GDP measured in purchasing power parity terms has surpassed that of the United States. Per capita income has skyrocketed but lags behind the OECD countries because of the immense size of China’s population, now numbering roughly 1.4 billion.