Chipmakers In China Are Rapidly Catching Up With AI

According to Xu Bing, co-founder of SenseTime, China’s domestic artificial intelligence (AI) chipmakers are rapidly catching up to global leaders. 

TakeAway Points:

  • China’s domestic artificial intelligence (AI) chipmakers are making fast progress in closing the gap on international leaders, according to SenseTime co-founder Xu Bing.
  • Meanwhile, one of China’s AI pioneers, SenseTime, has been put on a US investment blacklist as a result of broad US sanctions that are limiting the nation’s AI advancements.
  • Another chipmaker that has demonstrated promise in AI, in addition to Biren and Huawei, is Moore Threads Intelligent Beijing.

Chipmaker are Matching up on AI Growth

Speaking at the UBS Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong, Xu stated that while Asia is well behind the US in terms of computing capacity for AI, China has the expertise and data to catch up. 

One of China’s AI pioneers, SenseTime, has been put on a US investment blacklist as a result of broad US sanctions that are limiting the nation’s AI advancements. US trade restrictions that prohibit the import of Nvidia’s cutting-edge AI accelerators have complicated China’s advancement in this area. That’s sparked the need for domestic alternatives from the likes of Huawei Technologies and Shanghai Biren Technology, which are both also subject to US trade restrictions.

“There’s a shortage of resources here in Asia in general. It’s like a 10-fold gap in the compute resources that we have here compared to the US leaders. But I think Asian markets never lack talent and never lack data,” Xu said.

Local Semiconductor Companies are Collaborating

According to Xu, local semiconductor companies in China are collaborating with SenseTime to enhance their computational capabilities, as local chips are rapidly catching up. He did not mention any particular companies, but Huawei has quietly emerged as China’s leader in chip technology research after navigating US restrictions to create its own cutting-edge smartphone processor last year. 

According to Xu, estimates of China’s current lag behind the US vary, with some putting it at a year and others at three years. However, he stated that the nation’s shortfall in processing power will not last forever. He declared, “A computer is a commodity.” “Over time, there will not be a compute gap.”

Another chipmaker that has demonstrated promise in AI, in addition to Biren and Huawei, is Moore Threads Intelligent Beijing. March saw a visit by the leading AI and chip manufacturing companies in China, including Baidu, a developer of AI, and Naura Technology Group, a manufacturer of chip production equipment. Chinese Premier Li Qiang spoke with Moore Threads’ CEO.

About SenseTime

SenseTime is a Hong Kong-based, publicly traded artificial intelligence business that is partially controlled by the state. In October 2014, computer scientist Xu Li and professor Tang Xiao’ou of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Department of Information Engineering co-founded SenseTime. The firm creates technology for autonomous driving, remote sensing, medical image analysis, optical character recognition, object detection, facial identification, image recognition, and video analysis. The U.S. government has regularly sanctioned SenseTime since 2019 over claims that it has used its facial recognition technology to monitor and imprison Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.