The U.S. government may start scrutinizing informal partnerships between American and Chinese companies in the field of artificial intelligence, threatening practices that have long been considered garden variety development work for technology companies, sources familiar with the discussions said, CNBC informed.
So far, U.S. government reviews for national security and other concerns have been limited to investment deals and corporate takeovers. This possible new expansion of the mandate — which would serve as a stop-gap measure until Congress imposes tighter restrictions on Chinese investments — is being pushed by members of Congress, and those in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration who worry about theft of intellectual property and technology transfer to China, according to four people familiar with the matter.
Artificial intelligence, in which machines imitate intelligent human behavior, is a particular area of interest because of the technology’s potential for military usage, they said. Other areas of interest for such new oversight include semiconductors and autonomous vehicles, they added.
These considerations are in early stages, so it remains unclear if they will move forward, and which informal corporate relationships this new initiative would scrutinize.
Any broad effort to sever relationships between Chinese and American tech companies — even temporarily — could have dramatic effects across the industry. Major American technology
companies, including Advanced Micro Devices, Qualcomm, Nvidia Corp and IBM, have activities in China ranging from research labs to training initiatives, often in collaboration with Chinese companies and institutions who are major customers.
Top talent in areas including artificial intelligence and chip design also flows freely among companies and universities in both countries.
The nature of informal business relationships varies widely. For example, when U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp — the leader in AI hardware — unveiled a new graphics processing unit that powers data centers, video games and cryptocurrency mining last year, it gave away samples to 30 artificial intelligence scientists, including three who work with China’s government, according to Nvidia.