Despite having no presence in China, Google Inc’s parent company Alphabet has floated plans to open an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing.
According to several reports, Google is recruiting machine learning engineers and cloud machine learning engineers in Beijing and preparing for the new AI lab, said industry sources and websites including LinkedIn.
At least 20 positions based in Beijing are advertised on the company’s careers site, spanning engineering and marketing to product managers. Multiple listings are shown in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Google Cloud currently doesn’t operate in China. The company would need a local partner and special licenses to establish the business here.
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According to other sources, Google has been focused on hiring top talent and improving the quality of its algorithms. The company pulled back from China in 2010 over concerns about censorship and after a cyber-attack in which some of the company’s proprietary computer code was stolen.
Google’s search engine can be used in China only by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to bypass the government’s complex internet filtering system, known as the “Great Firewall”.
Even so, Google has continued to maintain some operations in China and some analysts have said they believe the company is looking to expand its presence.
The move puts Google in the race for talent against domestic group Baidu, which is also headquartered in Beijing and has been stepping up its own efforts to hire AI researchers in Beijing and Silicon Valley.
As per several reports recently, the Chinese government has been considering technological innovations such as AI as a key to reviving its slowing economy. The country has also outlined plans to become the world’s premier AI innovation hub by 2030.
Four of 20 positions being advertised by Google in Beijing are for its machine learning programme — part of its AI research initiative — and require expert qualifications equivalent to those held by an assistant professor.
Google’s more than 600 employees in mainland China include an advertising sales team, where business is booming as a result of Chinese companies’ desire to attract foreign customers, and engineers working on Google’s still-blocked search engine.