Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a number of top US scientists are set to attend a Chinese government-backed annual technology conference that kicks off on Thursday evening in Beijing, as the country seeks to boost international cooperation in the area.
Gates, who is attending as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the private charitable foundation he founded with his former wife, is scheduled to speak on Friday at the Zhongguancun Forum, according to the event's official website.
The six-day meeting, which has a theme of "open cooperation for a shared future", will focus on the "frontiers of science and technology development", including artificial intelligence (AI), Beijing vice-mayor Yu Yingjie said last week.
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Then-Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He attends the opening ceremony of the 2021 Zhongguancun Forum in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua alt=Then-Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He attends the opening ceremony of the 2021 Zhongguancun Forum in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua>
As the forum is the first major international conference held in the Zhongguancun area - Beijing's answer to Silicon Valley - after the country's Covid reopening, more than 40 per cent of the speakers will be foreign guests, according to Yu.
John Hopcroft, a computer science professor at Cornell University who won the Turing Award in 1986, and Nobel Prize laureate Ardem Patapoutian, an Armenian-American molecular biologist, are among the listed speakers, along with Chinese biophysicist Shi Yigong and Robin Li Yanhong, co-founder and CEO of Chinese AI and search giant Baidu.
The organiser did not immediately respond to enquiries on whether the invited guests will show up in person or via video call.
The meeting comes at a time when US start-up OpenAI's conversational bot ChatGPT has placed the technology under the spotlight, as China's tech rivalry with the US ramps up.
Baidu founder and CEO Robin Li Yanhong showcases Ernie Bot, the company's answer to ChatGPT, at a launch event in Beijing on March 16. Photo: Handout alt=Baidu founder and CEO Robin Li Yanhong showcases Ernie Bot, the company's answer to ChatGPT, at a launch event in Beijing on March 16. Photo: Handout>
Both Gates and Li have been vocal about the potential of AI technology. Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI, while Baidu is the first major Chinese company to launch a ChatGPT alternative in the country.
Gates said earlier this week that AI could work as a personal digital assistant and replace websites such as Amazon.com and Google. The latter released its ChatGPT competitor Bard in March.
Li has repeatedly stressed that Baidu's future lies in AI. He said during an earnings call last week that "the emergence of generative AI and large language models present transformative potential for AI in various industries".
The Zhongguancun Forum, which has been held every year since 2007, is organised by eight government agencies and affiliates, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Nobel laureate Ardem Patapoutian, an invited guest at this year's Zhongguancun Forum, poses for a portrait in his office in San Diego in 2021. Photo: AP Photo alt=Nobel laureate Ardem Patapoutian, an invited guest at this year's Zhongguancun Forum, poses for a portrait in his office in San Diego in 2021. Photo: AP Photo>
The event has traditionally been a vehicle for Beijing to promote technology exchanges. In 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the conference, saying that China would take a "more open attitude" and take part in "global innovation networks."
However, increased tensions between Washington and Beijing over issues such as AI and semiconductor development have cast a shadow over the event.
The Biden administration is currently considering further restrictions on American investment in Chinese AI companies and other sensitive technologies, according to a Fox News report earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Beijing on Sunday declared that US chip maker Micron Technology failed a cybersecurity review, and banned the sale of its products to China's critical information infrastructure operators.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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