The new technological ‘Eastern Bloc’ . . .
Russia has announced 2020 to be the “year of Russian-Chinese scientific, technical, and innovation co-operation,” making partnerships on artificial intelligence (AI) a top priority. The declaration comes at an opportune moment for Huawei amid its recent struggles. The tech giant has been increasingly active in Russia, acquiring Vocord, a facial-recognition startup, for C$66 million, and vowing to be a major contributor to the Russian AI ecosystem by 2025. Tighter Sino-Russian partnerships open up Beijing’s massive market to Russian tech companies, but also provide Chinese enterprises with much needed talent, not to mention access to Russia’s cutting-edge military technology.
The Kremlin’s attempt to catch up . . .
Collaboration in AI research and development may be essential for the success of Moscow’s national AI strategy, announced in October 2019. In that strategy, Russia says it is seeking to ramp up investment and development in civilian applications, being mindful of human rights protections, innovative competition, and technological sovereignty. Although clear in its intentions, experts have remained skeptical as the strategy did not cite concrete budget allocations, continues to rely on inefficient state-owned enterprises, and lacks clear measures to incentivize historically stagnant private investment.
Friends or frenemies? . . .
Experts often group Russia and China in opposition to the U.S. Partnerships like these could hurt America’s bottom line, with U.S. companies cut off from China’s market and the erosion of U.S. advantages in research and talent. However, Sino-Russian friendships should not be overstated. Russian technology leaders remain wary of Chinese collaboration due to concerns over intellectual property theft. China’s ‘phase one’ deal with the Trump administration has also caused Russia to question Beijing’s commitment to a united front against the U.S. Collaboration may be a savvy solution in the face of strong pushback and containment measures from Washington, but long-term effects on technological prowess remain to be seen.
- Defense One: Russia’s AI quest is state-driven – Even more than China’s. Can it work?
- Nikkei Asian Review: Huawei plays star role in new China-Russia AI partnership
- Nikkei Asian Review: Russia renews interest in Mongolia to counter Chinese influence