Comparison of artificial intelligence strategies of China and the European Union

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has an unprecedented ability to reshape individual lives, societies and the environment. The EU and China, both world leaders in the development and deployment of AI technologies, are worth watching!

In this article, we partially resume a comparison of the artificial intelligence strategies of the China and the European Union, which assesses the main similarities and differences regarding the high-level objectives of each governance strategy, how the development and use of AI is promoted in the public and private sectors. The report characterizes China’s strategy by its primary focus on promotinginnovation and a more recent emphasis on ‘common prosperity’, and that of the EU on promoting ethical outcomes by protecting fundamental rights. It examines areas where the EU and China could learn and improve their respective approaches to AI governance to promote more ethical outcomes.

Recent advances in AI have provided a strong incentive for countries to develop governance strategies to maximize the potential benefits of AI technologies while mitigating their risks. More than 60 countries have published policy documents on AI. The European Union (EU) and China’s strategies are two of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to promote and govern AI, both outlining what they believe a “good AI society” should look like. AI”. To date, little effort has been made to compare these visions of a “good AI society” and, in doing so, to understand the granular differences in goals, processes, and outcomes. Instead, the comparative literature has largely focused on comparing the specific capabilities of China, the EU, and other states, using metrics such as data availability, concentration of AI talent and patents filed.

Compare lenses

The failure to compare the goals, processes and outcomes of China’s and EU’s approaches to AI is a notable omission, given the value such analyzes could bring to policymakers and academics who try to identify and introduce best practices in all contexts. This is not to say that no literature has examined how some specific best practices for China and the EU can be adopted. A handful of articles focused on how elements of China’s AI innovation strategy could be adopted in the EU to improve global competitiveness, and how specific industry practices in Europe could improve on efficiencies in China. However, these works do not analyze strategies holistically and systematically and pay little attention to best practices and ethical outcomes.

the document assesses key similarities and differences regarding the high-level goals of each government’s strategy, how the development and use of AI is promoted in the public and private sectors, and policies are intended (or claimed) to benefit .

We extracted some facts from the document:


In July 2017, China released its national AI strategy, titled Next-Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (AIDP), which outlines the country’s geopolitical, fiscal, and legal/ethical goals for AI technologies. . The AIDP suggests that AI will become the main driver of China’s industrial upgrading and economic transformation. At the same time, it stresses the importance of minimizing the risks associated with the transformation of employment structures, violations of privacy and challenges to the norms of international relations. AIDP’s central ambition is for China to become a global innovation hub for AI by 2030, with an AI industry valued at 1 trillion yuan ($147 billion) as well as strong and well-established laws and ethical standards for emerging AI challenges.

In 2015, the State Council launched “Made in China 2025”: a ten-year plan to transform China into a dominant player in global high-tech manufacturing. 9 ministries jointly issued a Guidance Notice on Algorithmic Governance, in which they stated that their goal is to develop a comprehensive governance ecosystem within the next three years.


In April 2018, 24 EU countries and Norway signed a Declaration of Cooperation on AI, formalizing their intention to promote a collective European response to the opportunities and challenges presented by AI. Two general objectives are defined as priorities. The first is to strengthen the technological and industrial capacity of the EU throughout the economy, in both the private and public sectors. The second is to prepare for the changes brought about by AI by anticipating market developments, modernizing education and training and adapting social protection systems. A group of 52 experts, 6 appointed by the European Commission in 2018 to support the EU AI Strategy outlined, (HLEG) produced Ethical Guidelines for Trustworthy AI (2019) which were developed to ensure a “human-centric” approach to AI and 33 “Policy and Investment Recommendations” (2019) that aim to guide trustworthy AI towards sustainability, growth and competitiveness.

The EU’s approach to AI governance was underpinned in April 2021 by the publication of the European Commission’s proposal for an AI law. It is a risk-based regulation for AI, which outlines a four-tier framework based on the potential risk to health, safety and fundamental rights.

Common goals?

At first sight, the strategies of the EU and China can be seen as broadly coherent: both aim to foster global leadership in AI, improve social outcomes and increase economic output, while reducing potential damage. Although the EU and China’s AI strategies emerge at similar times, there has been a key difference in framing that has pushed governments onto separate trajectories.

In the EU, policy discussions on AI governance have largely been driven by the widespread adoption of AI and the desire to control the potentially harmful effects of its use.

Chinese policy and discourse primarily favors an innovation-driven approach. There are indications that this distinction is now beginning to blur. The Chinese government has begun to place greater emphasis on “common prosperity” policy measures that seek to assert greater political control over businesses and reduce harm to society, often at the expense of innovation.

The type of geopolitical competition that is depicted in the respective AI policy documents is another point where the two approaches diverge from each other. The objectives of the AIDP (China) encompass the field of science and technology, talent retention, standards and regulations, and the military advantages that AI can provide. The objective of developing AI for defense is largely absent from the EU strategy, and is in fact explicitly excluded from the White Paper on AI, with the Commission placing more emphasis on promoting international dialogue.

Private sector

As for the private sector, the Ministry of Science and Technology has established a “national AI team”, a group of technology companies that are approved by the Chinese government as “champions” for research and the development of specific AI applications. The first companies were selected in November 2017 and included Baidu, which was responsible for the development of autonomous vehicles, and Tencent, the champion of computer vision for medical applications. The status of “national champion” gives companies privileged access to government projects and associated data.

Currently there is 15 champ Chinese covering a range of sectors. This private sector development is complemented by a “fragmented authoritarianism” model of governance, which vertically delegates some powers to local government and shares power horizontally among central government agencies.

In addition to setting standards, the EU uses mechanisms to guide and incentivize the private and public sectors. For the private sector, the EU promotes research and development in the field of AI through investment mechanisms, including InvestEU, the Digital Europe programme, the European Investment Fund and Horizon Europe (the successor of Horizon 2020). Part of this investment is used to fund specific research on AI; for example, Horizon 2020 has provided funding for AI applications, including the creation of a €35 million research fund to support companies developing AI medical imaging technologies for oncology.

Who the AI ​​is meant to benefit

China’s approach relies on a system of incentives for public and private actors to innovate, then uses ad hoc measures to reduce harm when it occurs. In contrast, the EU strategy aims to set ethical parameters and provide initial support to help Member States and private sector companies succeed within these parameters. Therefore, it is worth comparing the success of these mechanisms in achieving the high-level mutual goals of positive economic performance, international competitiveness and ethical governance, which have been identified as important both in China and in the world. EU.

In all EU policy documents, there is an explicit focus on promoting “human-centric” AI, which is based on the core values ​​of the EU: “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

In the AIDP (China), individual rights are rarely mentioned as a focal point, with a clearer emphasis on the benefits that can be brought to China in terms of the country’s international competitiveness, economic development or societal betterment. . In terms of societal benefits, for example, the AIDP focuses on “social construction”, with explicit references to using AI to “preserve social stability” and “capture group cognition” – in China, there is not a single set of government-endorsed ethical principles comparable to those produced by the HLEG (Europe).

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Comparison of artificial intelligence strategies of China and the European Union

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