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In its 2017 New Generation AI Development Plan, the Chinese State Council paved the path for a government-endorsed process of debating and adopting artificial intelligence (AI) ethics principles. Since then, ministries, businesses, academic institutions and expert committees have stepped up to formalise their existing, and institutionalise new, discussions about AI ethics. Nearly three years down the line, these discussions are becoming more common, taking place in government consultations, corporate meetings, academic fora and online conversations.

It is therefore surprising that the western misconception that China lacks debate around AI ethics seems to prevail, when in fact: i) existing Chinese AI principles largely align with global ones; ii) Chinese discussions enjoy unprecedented government support; and iii) the country is already investigating the technical and social implementation of these principles by exploring how they interact with its distinct cultural heritage.

In this essay I explore AI ethics in China through the lens of some of the key topics discussed in depth in the other essays on this collection – education, healthcare, smart cities and social credit systems – to consider which, if any, ethical issues are unique to China and which should be seen as global concerns.


Danit Gal

Technology advisor to the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation and associate fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University …