China may be ranked seventh globally when it comes to the number of professionals working in the cutting-edge industry of artificial intelligence, but the country is predicted to climb the rankings in the next decade.
More than 50,000 AI technical professionals are working in China. The United States far surpasses other countries with 850,000 out of the 1.9 million such professionals globally, according to a report by the professional networking website LinkedIn.
India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and France took second to sixth place in the rankings, according to the report based on LinkedIn user data.
“The core technique of AI is closely related to computer science, in which the US has maintained an absolute advantage in the past 20 years,” said Wang Di, vice-president of LinkedIn China.
Li Hui, a researcher with the Shanghai Institute for Science of Science, said AI talent in the US is mainly concentrated in such primary technical fields as chips, machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision and imaging, and far surpasses its Chinese counterparts in numbers.
The LinkedIn report found that about one in six employees in the field in the US were born before 1970, compared with only one in 25 in China. It also found that more than 70 percent of those in the US have at least 10 years of work experience in the industry, while the proportion in China is 38 percent.
China is expected to advance in the rankings soon, due to the great potential and opportunities in its enormous market, triggering a surge in the number of AI professionals, experts said.
Apart from the US, the countries that are ranked ahead of China are obviously incomparable to it regarding market potential, Wang said, and China may even possibly outperform the US in this regard.
“Internet technology has transformed Chinese people’s daily lives in recent years. For example, the speed of development of mobile payment and e-commerce in China has surpassed that of the US. It can also happen to the country’s AI development,” Wang said.
“Moreover, some traditional industries in China have a more urgent need to upgrade with AI technology. They can resort to AI directly, bypassing the stage of informatization, which the industries in the US are benefiting from,” he said.
With the combined advantages of rising capital investment and powerful policy support from the government, the flow of professionals from overseas will also contribute significantly to the growing talent pool, industry insiders said.
Regarding the cultivation of such talent at universities, Ma Shaoping, a professor of computer science at Tsinghua University, said the key is to strengthen collaboration between schools and enterprises to give students ample hands-on opportunities.