Tuesday, March 26, 2019

"China’s Huawei has big ambitions to weaken the US grip on AI leadership"

From MIT's Technology Review, March 4:

In spite of tensions with the US and its allies, Huawei is rapidly building a suite of AI offerings unmatched by any other company on the planet.
Ren Zhengfei, the reclusive founder and CEO of China’s embattled tech giant, Huawei, is defiant about American efforts to impede his company with lawsuits and restrictions.

“There is no way the US can crush us,” Ren said in a rare recent interview with international media. “The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced.”

It might sound like bluff and bluster, but these words carry a measure of truth. Huawei’s technology road map, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, points to a company that is progressing more rapidly—and on more technology fronts—than any other business in the world. Apart from its AI aspirations, Huawei is an ascendant player in the next-generation 5G wireless networking market, as well as the world’s second-largest smartphone maker behind Samsung (and ahead of Apple).
“The [Chinese] government and private sector approach is to build companies that compete across the full tech stack,” says Samm Sacks, who specializes in cybersecurity and China at New America, a Washington think tank. “That’s what Huawei is doing.”

But it’s Huawei’s AI strategy that will give it truly unparalleled reach across the whole of the tech landscape. It will also raise a host of new security issues. The company’s technological ubiquity, and the fact that Chinese companies are ultimately answerable to their government, are big reasons why the US views Huawei as an unprecedented national security threat.

In an exclusive interview with MIT Technology Review, Xu Wenwei, director of the Huawei board and the company’s chief strategy and marketing officer, touted the scope of its AI plans. He also defended the company’s record on security. And he promised that Huawei would seek to engage with the rest of the world to address emerging risks and threats posed by AI.

Xu (who uses the Western name William Xu) said that Huawei plans to increase its investments in AI and integrate it throughout the company to “build a full-stack AI portfolio.” Since Huawei is a private firm, it’s tricky to quantify its technology investments. But officials from the company said last year that it planned to more than double annual R&D spending to between $15 billion and $20 billion. This could catapult the company to between fifth and second place in worldwide spending on R&D. According to its website, some 80,000 employees, or 45% of Huawei’s workforce, are involved in R&D....