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UN Adopts Chinese-backed Resolution to Close AI Access Gap

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution to boost international cooperation on artificial intelligence (AI) capacity-building.

The resolution, proposed by China and supported by more than 140 countries including the US, aims to close the widening gap with developing countries to help them benefit from AI, reported the Associated Press (AP).

New Resolution

The Chinese-backed resolution on “Enhancing International Cooperation on Capacity-building of Artificial Intelligence” stressed that AI development should adhere to “the principles of being human-centered.” It also calls for international cooperation and practical steps to help developing countries build their AI capacity.

The UN resolution calls the international community to “provide and promote a fair, open, inclusive and non-discriminatory business environment” for AI development and use.

US-backed Resolution

This new resolution builds on the March 21 UN-adopted resolution on AI, led by the US and supported by 123 countries including China. The resolution supported the international community’s effort to make sure that AI is “safe, secure and trustworthy” and all countries can benefit from it.

Although both UN resolutions are non-binding, their adoption reflects US and China’s determination to play key roles in shaping the future of AI technologies. While they are rivals in many areas, this step shows the start of cooperation between them on this powerful new technology.

Moreover, the unanimous adoption of the two resolutions by the UNGA’s 193 members reflects widespread global support for the US and China leadership on this issue.

Important Step

Praising the adoption of the new resolution, China’s Ambassador to the UN, Fu Cong, told reporters on Monday that the two resolutions complement each other, despite the US-sponsored resolution being “more general.”

Fu added that the Chinese-backed resolution focuses on “capacity building.” He described it as “great and far-reaching.” He said: “We’re very appreciative of the positive role that the US has played in this whole process,” he said.

US-China Cooperation

The Chinese UN Ambassador expressed his country’s desire to cooperate with the US on this field. He pointed to the rapid advancement of AI technology, saying that the issue has been discussed at very senior levels, including by the US and Chinese leaders.

“We do look forward to intensifying our cooperation with the United States and for that matter with all countries in the world on this issue, which … will have far-reaching implications in all dimensions,” Fu said.

Chinese Criticism

The US Treasury Department announced on June 21 a proposed rule that would restrict and monitor US investments in China for AI, computer chips and quantum computing. China’s UN Ambassador strongly criticized the US-proposed rule.

Fu said: “We are firmly opposed to these sanctions,” urging the US to lift those sanctions. He added that China thinks the rule will not be “helpful to the healthy development of the AI technology per se” and it will “divide the world in terms of the standards, and in terms of the rules governing AI.”

AI Military Use

Both the US and Chinese resolutions address the civilian applications of AI. However, China’s Ambassador to the UN highlighted the importance of the military dimension of AI.

He told reporters on Monday: “We do believe that it is necessary for the international community to take measures to reduce the dangers and the risks posed by the development of AI.”

Fu expressed Beijing’s support for controlling lethal autonomous weapons. He said that China is actively taking part in negotiations in Geneva in that regard. He also noted that some countries are considering proposing a UNGA resolution on AI military dimension, “and we are in broad support for that initiative,” Fu said.

AI Governance

Despite warning of AI dangers, both resolutions commended its potential advantages in promoting economic development and improving the lives of people. The US resolution calls for further discussions on possible governance approaches of AI systems. Moreover, it urges nations to ensure the protection of personal data and human rights, and to monitor AI for potentials risks.

On the other hand, Fu said that China proposed the new resolution given the widening gap in AI development between the developed North and developing South. He added that Beijing’s aim was to underscore the pivotal role the UN should play in AI governance as “the most representative and most inclusive international forum.”

According to Fu, the purpose of the Chinese resolution is “to bridge the artificial intelligence and other digital divides between and within countries.” It also aims to enhance international cooperation, including sharing knowledge and transferring technology to developing countries.

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