China contributes to improving global AI governance

By Liu Yao

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been rapidly advancing around the world and finding increasingly wider applications.

However, while driving economic and social development, the surge of AI also brings with it security risks and challenges.

In particular, the impacts of AI technology on legal, ethical, and humanitarian aspects, as well as its complex effects on international politics, economy, military, and society, have drawn attention and sparked discussions in the international community. The need for international cooperation and regulatory governance of AI has become particularly urgent.

Earlier this month, 28 countries and regions including China, the United States, the UK and the European Union signed the “Bletchley Declaration” at the first AI Safety Summit, agreeing to build an “internationally inclusive network of scientific research on frontier AI safety.”

This October, China launched the Global AI Governance Initiative, which systematically outlines China’s proposals on AI governance from three aspects, namely, the development, security and governance of AI, and presents a constructive approach to addressing universal concerns over AI development and governance.

The initiative stresses it is important to uphold a people-centered approach in developing AI, with the goal of increasing the wellbeing of humanity and on the premise of ensuring social security and respecting the rights and interests of humanity, so that AI always develops in a way that is beneficial to human civilization..

As an “enabler” for social development, AI primarily serves to enhance human wellbeing, thus it is important to ensure the robustness and safety of AI technology, said Zeng Yi, director of the International Research Center for AI Ethics and Governance of the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China explicitly emphasizes a people-centered approach in the Global AI Governance Initiative, which proves that the initiative is globally oriented and aims to benefit all humanity, Zeng added.

“The risks associated with AI technology are characterized by their hidden nature, cross-domain impact, global reach, and long-term effects. Capital’s pursuit of profit may lead to the alienation of technology, necessitating sustained, systematic, and collaborative governance efforts at the international level,” said Zhang Xin, director of the Digital Economy and Legal Innovation Research Center, the University of International Business and Economics.

In the Global AI Governance Initiative, China proposed that countries should adhere to the principle of developing AI for good, respect the relevant international laws, and align AI development with humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom. They should work together to prevent and fight against the misuse and malicious use of AI technologies by terrorists, extreme forces, and transnational organized criminal groups.

China is a major player in the AI sector. Statistics show that the scale of China’s core AI industry has exceeded 500 billion yuan ($70.42 billion), with the number of AI enterprises surpassing 4,300 and innovative achievements continue to emerge.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Chinese enterprises and institutions applied for nearly 30,000 AI-related patents in 2022, accounting for over 40 percent of the world’s total.

While advancing in technology and related industries, China has been committed to enhancing the security, reliability, controllability, and fairness of AI technology.

In the Global AI Governance Initiative, China proposed that countries should gradually establish and improve relevant laws, regulations and rules, and ensure personal privacy and data security in the R&D and application of AI. It said countries should put ethics first, establish and improve ethical principles, norms, and accountability mechanisms for AI, formulate AI ethical guidelines, and build sci-tech ethical review and regulatory system.

Besides, it is also important to adhere to the principles of fairness and non-discrimination, and avoid biases and discrimination based on ethnicities, beliefs, nationalities, genders, etc.

A study by the International Monetary Fund found that AI and other new technologies may lead to increased investment in developed economies that have already achieved automation, thereby further widening the gap between wealthy and impoverished nations. Experts noted that in the field of AI, there exist a digital divide and a governance gap between developing and developed countries.

That’s why China, in the Global AI Governance Initiative, proposed that all countries, regardless of their size, strength, or social system, should have equal rights to develop and use AI.

Countries should increase the representation and voice of developing countries in global AI governance, and ensure equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal rules for all countries in AI development and governance. Efforts should be made to conduct international cooperation with and provide assistance to developing countries, to bridge the gap in AI and its governance capacity.

According to Zhang Li, a researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the Global AI Governance Initiative responds to the widespread concerns and attention of the international community, especially developing countries, regarding the development of AI.

China’s advocacy for governance in the field of AI represents a voice for developing countries and demonstrates its role as a responsible major country in improving global governance, Zhang added.