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Nearly a year ago, China’s top AI scientists gathered in Suzhou for the annual Wu Wenjun AI Science and Technology Award ceremony.

Despite that fact that they had every reason to feel good about China’s accomplishments in AI, the mood was rather gloomy.

More than two years after the release of the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (AIDP), China’s top AI experts worry that Beijing’s AI push will not live up to the hype.

The concern is not just that China might be in for an “AI winter”—a cyclic downturn in AI funding and interest due to overly zealous expectations. It’s also that for all China’s strides in AI, from multi-billion dollar unicorns to a glitzy state plan, it still lacks a solid, independent base in the field’s foundational technologies.

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