China is striding ahead of the rest of the world in terms of its investment in artificial intelligence (AI), rate of experimentation and adoption, and breadth of applications. In 2017, China announced its aim of becoming the world leader in AI technology by 2030. AI innovation is now a key national priority, with central and local government spending on AI estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
While Europe and the US are also following AI strategies designed to transform the public sector, there has been surprisingly little analysis of what practical lessons can be learnt from China’s use of AI in public services. Given China’s rapid progress in this area, it is important for the rest of the world to pay attention to developments in China if it wants to keep pace.
This essay collection finds that examining China’s experience of public sector innovation offers valuable insights for policymakers. Not everything is applicable to a western context – there are social, political and ethical concerns that arise from China’s use of new technologies in public services and governance – but there is still much that can be learnt from its experience while also acknowledging what should be criticised and avoided.