Saturday, April 20, 2024


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UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt defends China’s invitation to AI summit

Jeremy Hunt, the U.K. Chancellor, informed POLITICO Tech that China will only be invited to participate in certain portions of an artificial intelligence summit scheduled for later this year. This decision was made due to reluctance from the U.S. and other allies.

Hunt stated that China will not be invited to all portions of the summit. He explained the reasoning behind including Beijing, despite widespread concerns about their use of AI technology for surveillance and suppression. He also mentioned that British officials plan to be transparent about practices that they do not deem acceptable.

In an upcoming interview, Hunt stated that in order to develop AI for the greater good of humanity, one must not overlook the world’s second largest economy. This does not mean compromising values, but rather engaging in dialogue which can prove to be advantageous.

In June, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a summit that aims to bring together leaders in the tech industry and establish the U.K. as a prominent player in discussions about AI safety following Brexit. While this summit is separate from ongoing regulatory conversations in the EU and the U.S., it has received support from President Joe Biden, who will not be attending in person.

Earlier, POLITICO stated that US and EU authorities would rather not have China participate in the event. However, Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council, clarified that the US has no issue with China attending the summit.

Hunt’s remarks come as he is set to begin a tour of tech hubs along the U.S. West Coast on Wednesday that will include stops in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles for meetings with the CEOs of Amazon, Microsoft and Google, among other major American players. He will also host a roundtable with video game companies, including Activision Blizzard, which has struggled to win U.K approval for its acquisition by Microsoft.

The United Kingdom has a goal of expanding its current startup community, which according to Hunt, has the highest number of ventures in Europe worth over $1 billion. Their ultimate aim is to reach the same level of success as the renowned Silicon Valley. To achieve this, they intend to find a middle ground between the heavy regulations of Europe and the lighter regulations of the United States.

However, there has been resistance from major technology companies towards certain regulatory ideas proposed by the U.K., including the implementation of new digital competition regulations. Investors have expressed concerns over what they perceive as excessive interference from the country’s antitrust authority, which has blocked several major technology acquisitions in recent times. Additionally, both Apple and WhatsApp, which is now owned by Meta, have indicated that they may cease operations in the country due to rules that they believe pose a threat to user privacy.

Hunt stated that when meeting with tech giants, the goal is to be straightforward about wanting a regulatory environment that supports innovation. This should benefit new startups and competitors.

Britain has set a goal to establish itself as a global leader in artificial intelligence. The country is currently home to DeepMind, an innovative AI company owned by Google, as well as a growing center for research and development in this field, along with other areas like life sciences and biotechnology. This will be highlighted by Hunt in his efforts to attract American tech executives.

Hunt told POLITICO Tech that the message he wants to convey is: “We recognize this as a highly dynamic time for technology advancement and we aim to be a strategic ally in helping you navigate your growth strategies.”

For several weeks, there has been tension surrounding China’s potential involvement in the November AI summit. A report from POLITICO in August indicated that Beijing would likely be invited, and this was confirmed by U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Tuesday.

Including China is crucial for democratic nations to have any sway over President Xi Jinping’s use of AI and to prevent the world from being split into different regulatory systems for this quickly advancing technology. This division already exists with the internet, as China has gained more control.

Hunt stated that free-world democracies will likely have varying approaches to regulating AI due to differing concerns about privacy. This will be taken into consideration as we move forward.

However, there is a larger issue surrounding China that we must face truthfully. Despite our disagreements with the regime, China is a significant presence that cannot be ignored. Therefore, we have the option to either attempt productive engagement whenever possible, or not.

This report was contributed to by Vincent Manancourt and Annie Rees.

You can hear the entire discussion with Hunt and other prominent figures in the tech industry by subscribing to POLITICO Tech on Apple, Spotify, Google, or any other platform where you access podcasts.