Weekend roundup: Whoever dominates AI will put their stamp on the social order

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, told me in a recent conversation, he expects China will surpass Silicon Valley in artificial intelligence advances in about a year. Edward Tseexplains why.

..  “China has an edge in its ability to combine strong, top-down government directive with vibrant grass-roots-level innovation. Beyond this, China has an abundance of data to train AI-learning algorithms because of its huge population of Internet users — more than 700 million. China’s thriving mobile Internet ecosystem also provides a test bed for AI researchers to collect and analyze valuable demographics and transactional and behavioral big data and to conduct large-scale experiments at a much higher level than foreign counterparts.”

..  In China, the security state is well on its way to becoming an all-seeing Big Brother.

 

Tillerson Balances Trump’s Goals With His Own

In interview, secretary of state reflects on his role in administration, warns China on trade and territory

 “Most of the things he would do would be done on very short time frames. Everything I spent my life doing was done on 10- to 20-year time frames, so I am quite comfortable thinking in those terms.”

His solution: “Delivering the incremental wins,” he said. “Incremental progress is taking you toward the ultimate objective, which is, as I say is eight, 10 years down the road.”’

.. Mr. Tillerson said one of his top long-term priorities is shifting the balance of the trade and national-security relationship with China

.. Mr. Tillerson warned China that the U.S. has an arsenal of economic weapons to force Beijing to address trade imbalances and a continuing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

 .. “We can do this one of two ways,” Mr. Tillerson said during the interview, seeming at times to speak directly to his Chinese counterparts. “We can do it cooperatively and collaboratively, or we can do it by taking actions and letting you react to that.”

Tools he might apply include tariffs, World Trade Organization actions, quotas and other mechanisms, he said.

.. If I were a world leader—doesn’t matter who—I wouldn’t talk to Tillerson,” said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing the public divide between the two men. “The president must feel that this person can do the work for him…this is not the case here. It’s becoming antagonistic.”

.. Mr. Trump has also disparaged his top diplomat, complaining that Mr. Tillerson doesn’t understand his “Make America Great” philosophy and has few original thoughts. “Totally establishment in his thinking,” he has told aides.

.. “I believe you solve a problem in Afghanistan not by just dealing with Afghanistan,” he said. “You solve it by solving a regional problem, and that’s the way we’re looking at the Middle East.”

.. said he spends the bulk of his time concentrating on North Korea, Iran, counterterrorism, China and Russia.

 

Why China Is Rushing to Collect Genes

Seeking new ways to treat diseases including cancer and diabetes, scientists around the world are gathering gene samples for study. China is betting it can map citizens’ genes and build up a database faster than anyone else. Photo: Shawn Koh for The Wall Street Journal

That Queasy Feeling Down Under

Historically, America’s strategic advantage over China lay in our combination of reliability, likability and preponderant military and economic strength. We were friendly. We dealt squarely. We were the future.

But America’s naval mastery in Asia is increasingly in doubt. The United States withdrawal from the TPP creates a trade void for China to fill. As for square dealing, one of the reasons Trump’s truculent January phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull so shocked Australians is that the American president appeared to renege on Barack Obama’s pledge to resettle 1,250 refugees held in Australian detention centers. It was only this week that the United States took in the first 54.

.. Michael Fullilove, makes the point that Australia “needs to prosecute a larger foreign policy,” not least by drawing closer to Asia’s other democracies as “an important hedge against the dual hazards of a reckless China and a feckless United States.” That’s smart policy for Australia — and sad comment on how our friends see us in the age of Trump.