China has gradually emerged as a leader of the artificial intelligence or AI sector worldwide. It has surpassed the United States in terms of new patents in related sphere, according to a report.
The news coincides with the Third World Internet Conference, which opened on Wednesday in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.[Special coverage]
The report, published on Tuesday jointly by the Wuzhen Institute, a think tank, and NetEase Inc, a leading Chinese IT company, shows that since 2012, China has exceeded the U.S. in terms of new patent applications and licensing.
However, the U.S. still tops the global list with overall patents totaling 26,891, followed by China with 15,745.
Zhao Ziming, an analyst at internet consultancy Analysys, said: "AI is developing rapidly in China. Especially in its applications, China is ahead of other countries. As the technology matures, there is a high possibility that China will catch up with the U.S. and even become a world leader in the field of AI.
"In terms of advanced technologies in AI, China may still need a long time to develop and then surpass the U.S.," Zhao said.
Zhang Xiaodong, president of the Wuzhen Institute, noted that while China leads in the number of new patents, the quality of patents needs to be improved.
The report also shows Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are at the forefront of AI development in East Asia, and account for 7.4 percent of the world's AI firms.
Although there was a dip in the amount of AI investments in recent months, the overall performance is still active in China, the report said.
As more tech firms tap into the field of AI, global broadcaster BBC expects the AI market size worldwide will reach 119 billion yuan ($17 billion) by 2020. And China's is expected to grow to 9.1 billion yuan by the same year, according to iResearch Consulting Group.
Neil Shen, managing partner of Sequoia Capital China, said that AI will be the new opportunity in the next wave of technological innovation.
"So far, the booming internet has accelerated the development of data accumulation technologies to an unprecedented scale. As the technological capacity grows significantly, AI can tap into a lot of unsolved practical problems in various industries."
Currently, AI finds many applications in internet advertising and financial technologies. Health care is expected to follow suit, according to the report.