China's President Xi seeks to keep powerful AI on tight leash

"We must be prepared for worst-case and extreme scenarios, and be ready to withstand the major test of high winds," says statement

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Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves at the end of a joint press conference during the China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, in Chinas northern Shaanxi province on May 19, 2023. — AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves at the end of a joint press conference during the China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, in China's northern Shaanxi province on May 19, 2023. — AFP

As concerns over the possible deadly fallout of artificial intelligence (AI) grip experts, leaders, and academicians around the world, top Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping have called for greater state control over the technology to counter possible threats and problems.

During a meeting of the National Security Commission, the president and the other high-ups of the Communist Party of China agreed to "improve security governance of network data and artificial intelligence."

A number of AI experts, academicians and notable people including OpenAI CEO and Google DeepMind Tuesday warned of humanity’s extinction if the threats posed by AI to humans were not dealt with as a top global priority.

In a brief statement published on the webpage of the Centre for AI Safety Tuesday, it read: "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."

According to an official statement released on Xinhua, it read: "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."

President Xi said that the “complexity and severity of national security problems faced by our country have increased dramatically.”

In recent months, China has geared up its efforts to identify threats to its national security and interests, with restrictions on foreign firms, and strengthening counter-espionage laws.

Earlier last week, the Chinese cyberspace regulator banned US Micron Technology from selling its memory chips to domestic consumers saying the chipmaker, had failed its network security review, fuelling the latest trade spat between Washington and Beijing,

Chinese regulator noted that Micron, the biggest US memory chipmaker, had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of crucial infrastructure from buying from the company.

It remained unclear what are the risks or what products from the company would be affected.

In response, the US said that it won’t tolerate the ban.

Moreover, China has also stepped up to bring AI under state control with a draft law unveiled last month requiring all AI products to undergo an overhauling before going public.

AI products will be required to reflect "core socialist values", the draft law states, and must not "contain content on the subversion of state power."

Beijing has said deep fakes — the technology generating images and audio that can be falsely attributed to others as they did it — also present a "danger to national security and social stability."

It has been the ambition of China to become a global leader in AI by 2030. According to an estimation by McKinsey estimates, the sector could add about $600bn every year to China's gross domestic product by then.