Shanghai tapping upcoming AI conference to woo foreign investment amid trade-war slump


AI – which is transforming everything from finance to transport – is one of three key areas Shanghai is focusing on to help it through its slump. — SCMP

Shanghai hopes to use a high-profile artificial intelligence conference to woo international heavyweights to make AI investments at a time its economy is feeling the sting of the US-China trade war.

AI – which is transforming everything from finance and health care to manufacturing and transport – is one of three key areas Shanghai is focusing on to help it through its slump and build up its reputation as the go-to Chinese city for international companies. The other areas are integrated circuits and biotechnology.

Nearly 300 companies – including Tesla, IBM and Microsoft – plan to attend the AI conference and display their latest technology, said Zhang Ying, a vice director of Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology. The conference will be held between Aug 29 and 31.

“We are creating a more open business environment (for global companies),” Zhang told reporters in a media briefing. “The World Artificial Intelligence Conference will be an ideal gateway for overseas businesses and technologies to access to the Chinese market.”

She said the municipality is taking a more open attitude toward co-development of artificial intelligence technologies with international companies including those from the US. She said new investment funds will be set up to help AI technology development by local and foreign companies. Details about the funds will be unveiled at the conference, she said.

But her comments are the latest sign that Beijing is eager to attract foreign investment and technologies to its vast market. The country is struggling with an economic slowdown caused in part by the trade war. China’s industrial production in July grew at its lowest rate since February 2002, for example, and consumer demand has been weak.

Shanghai has been no exception.

It reported its economic output expanded 5.9% in the first half of this year, making it one of the slowest-growing provincial regions nationwide.

This comes amid a decade-long effort by Shanghai to transform itself into an international financial and technology innovation centre.

As part of that mission, the city government has offered tax incentives and allocated land resources to top technology players worldwide, as the US administration threatens to cut supplies of key components such as microchips to mainland companies.

In May, Wu Qing, Shanghai's vice-mayor, said the city was mapping out a strategy to help Chinese companies develop key technologies that might be cut off by US embargoes as the trade war drags on into its second year.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk is scheduled to speak at the conference.

Tesla, the bestselling US electric car maker, is expected to start production of Model 3 cars this year at Gigafactory 3, a US$2bil (RM8.3bil) production facility in Lingang, part of Shanghai’s free-trade zone. Telsa initially will build 250,000 electric vehicles a year there. – South China Morning Post


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