Sun Chenghao、He Sijing:Plugging the intelligence gap


As a responsible major developing country, China advocates balanced AI development and shared outcomes among all nations


Artificial intelligence is growing rapidly globally, driving technological revolutions and industrial upgrades. However, it's also important to recognize that artificial intelligence has some uncertain characteristics. While creating tremendous development opportunities for humanity and society, AI also brings about many risks, presenting multifaceted challenges to global peace and development. Against this backdrop, it has gradually become a concern of the international community to more effectively address the risks posed by AI technology. Various multilateral organizations, institutions, and governments have actively come up with concepts, initiatives and policy measures to promote the formation of a global force in AI governance.

At the multilateral level, initiatives related to AI governance are gradually on the rise. In November 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization passed the first normative global framework agreement, Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, to promote the service of AI to human society and ecosystems and prevent potential risks. In November 2023, the world's first AI Safety Summit was held in the United Kingdom, where 28 countries, including China, signed the first international declaration on AI, the Bletchley Declaration, emphasizing the strengthening of international cooperation to identify common risks and develop transnational policies for risk mitigation.

It is not difficult to find that different countries have different levels of concerns in terms of risk prevention, fairness and justice as well as personal privacy and national security protection, as a result of differences in levels of development, values, culture and national interests. However, the development trends and characteristics of AI require the construction of a more inclusive global governance framework. Under the current circumstances, there are still many challenges and difficulties to be overcome to reach a global consensus on AI governance frameworks, standards and norms.

First, AI technology is highly complex, especially in terms of algorithms and models, the demand for big data, requirements for computing resources and hardware, the interpretation of models and transparency, the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge, the need for continuous learning and adaptability, and ethical norms. As the application of AI becomes widely popular, risks such as data privacy, unfairness and discrimination, and national security become increasingly prominent. The complexity of AI technology and its induced wide-ranging, systemic, and international risks will be one of the challenges to global governance cooperation.

Second, the global governance of AI may shift toward confrontation. The Joe Biden administration regards China and Russia as major rivals, and is especially aiming to "out-compete" China as a key strategic goal for the coming decades. The United States continues to promote the strategy of building "a small yard with high fences", in a bid to hinder China's ability to develop AI and other advanced technologies. The US also continues to rally its allies to strengthen cooperation in the field of AI, including through coordination with the European Union via the Trade and Technology Council and the formation of the Quad semiconductor partnership. Thus, global AI governance is facing a complex situation of bloc confrontation and limited cooperation in normative governance. It is also confronted with the severe challenge of avoiding falling into a zero-sum game.

Third, the diversity of stakeholders will become a factor restricting global AI governance. Currently, AI governance is still dominated by governments. China, the EU and the US have formulated and released a series of AI governance initiatives, plans and legislation. However, the private sector plays an indispensable role in the development of AI technology, and seeking discourse power in AI rules can enhance its influence. Multiple stakeholders centered on their interests may lead to multi-party games or even vicious competition for the dominance and discourse power in AI governance, which would severely damage the momentum of cooperation among all parties.

Fourth, it is difficult to incorporate some countries of the Global South into a unified governance framework. There are significant technological and conceptual differences between some Global South countries and developed economies in Europe and America. AI is viewed by developing countries as an effective tool to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but developed countries hold the edge in developing this technology. Global South countries are trying to catch up with and understand cutting-edge AI technologies, while still lacking sufficient experience in formulating policies and regulations. Moreover, the Matthew effect of AI technology and its improper use will further exacerbate inequality between countries, widening the social development gap.

In the face of the multiple challenges and realities of global AI governance, China proposes a solution under its vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind. The Chinese government put forward the Global AI Governance Initiative during the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October 2023, which systematically emphasizes on the development, security, and governance of AI. The summit between China and the US leaders near San Francisco in November opened a new chapter for bilateral AI cooperation. This spring, China and the US will start the first round of intergovernmental dialogue on AI to address security risks. Previously, pragmatic exchanges have been conducted at the track II level between the two countries. For example, since 2019, the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University has engaged in AI exchanges with the Brookings Institution, which yielded a series of outcomes.

Led by the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind, Beijing has played a leading role as a responsible major country in forming an inclusive and comprehensive governance framework. Upholding the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the nation will continue to contribute to the realization of a global vision for AI governance, mainly reflected in the following aspects.

First, China has upheld a people-centered development philosophy and the principle of developing AI for good. This philosophy integrates humanistic values and philosophical thoughts from both the East and the West, emphasizing that the development of AI technology should not only respect and protect individual rights but also aim to enhance the common wellbeing of humanity. It should conform to humanity's common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom. China advocates the construction of a new model for global AI governance and actively supports the use of AI to aid sustainable development of human society.

Second, China maintains the principles of wide participation, consensus-based decision-making, and adopting a gradual approach. China advocates closely monitoring technological developments, effective communication among technological entities, and sharing best practices. Through dialogue and cooperation, and with full respect for the policy and practical differences among countries, China promotes active participation by multiple parties to form a broad consensus in the field of international AI governance. This approach takes into account the technological and conceptual differences among countries, balancing the reality of multiple stakeholders participating in global governance, and provides a viable solution for breaking the trend of bloc-based governance and constructing a multi-stakeholder governance system.

Third, China consistently emphasizes enhancing the representation and voice of developing countries in global AI governance, ensuring equal rights, opportunities, and rules for AI development and governance among all countries. Committed to bridging the digital divide and governance capacity gap, China recognizes that an unfair global governance framework would only widen the "intelligence gap" for developing countries. China adheres to its position as a responsible major developing country, thus advocating balanced AI development and shared outcomes among all nations.

Sun Chenghao is a fellow and head of the US-EU Program at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University. He Sijing is a research fellow at the Shanghai Association for AI and Social Development. The authors contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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