AI Superpowers

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AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
AI Superpowers.jpg
First edition
AuthorKai-Fu Lee
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date
September 25, 2018

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order is a 2018 non-fiction book by Beijing, China-based Kai-Fu Lee, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) pioneer, expert on China and a venture capitalist. Lee previously held executive positions at Apple, then SGI, Microsoft, and Google before creating his own company, Sinovation Ventures.[1][2]


In his September 2018 The New York Times Opinion piece, Thomas L. Friedman cited AI Superpowers in his summary of the emerging global dominance of China in AI. According to Kai-Fu Lee, "If data is the new oil, then China is the new Saudi Arabia."[3] Lee advances several arguments for why he thinks the artificial intelligence industry in China will excel in the artificial intelligence arms race:

  1. Training deep learning models requires more of a brute force method than innovation; well suited to China's supposedly higher quantity but lower quality of software engineer compared to the US[4]
  2. China has fewer data protection regulations (e.g., the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe) than other countries, so Chinese software collect more data on users.[4]
  3. Chinese tech startup culture is more "aggressive" than that of other countries', with fewer intellectual property restrictions[4] and fewer barriers to vertical integration[5]
  4. The participation of China's central government in funding and raising the status of the AI industry[4]


Senator Mark Warner named AI Superpowers as his recommended book for The 2018 POLITICO 50 Reading List.[6] Foreign Affairs criticized the book for promoting zero-sum thinking and hyping Chinese state investment in tech ventures that often underperform relative to expectations; for focusing on deep learning to the exclusion of other forms of artificial intelligence; and for overgeneralizing the usefulness of Chinese data sets.[5]


  1. ^ Fannin, Rebecca (July 16, 2017), AI Superpowers By Kai-Fu Lee Defines A New World Order For Silicon Valley, China, Forbes
  2. ^ Thomas L. Friedman (September 25, 2018). "Trump to China: 'I Own You.' Guess Again: The Chinese are catching up to the U.S. in many ways, and the president grasps only part of the reason". The New York Times. Opinion. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  3. ^ Kai-Fu Lee (September 25, 2018). AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9781328546395. OCLC 1035622189.
  4. ^ a b c d Atkinson, Robert. "AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Zwetsloot, Remco; Toner, Helen; Ding, Jeffrey (November 16, 2018). "Beyond the AI Arms Race". Foreign Affairs.
  6. ^ Politico Magazine Staff (September 4, 2018). "The POLITICO 50 Reading List". Politico. Retrieved October 9, 2018.