Cover: China's AI Exports

China's AI Exports

Developing a Tool to Track Chinese Development Finance in the Global South — Technical Documentation

Published Dec 11, 2023

by Jennifer Bouey, Lynn Hu, Keller Scholl, William Marcellino, James Gazis, Ammar A. Malik, Kyra Solomon, Sheng Zhang, Andy Shufer

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Research Questions

  1. How can China's AI exports be systematically tracked and analyzed using reliable data sources?
  2. What would promote a better understanding of the global landscape of China's AI exports?

With average annual commitments reaching $85 billion, the Chinese government is now the world's largest provider of development financing. Supported by large funding, many Chinese technology companies can deploy state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) tools in development contracts in recipient countries. The AI exports facilitated by these arrangements are likely to bolster China's growing global AI technology-related supply chains, trade flows, technology standards, and regulatory systems.

This report is the technical documentation for the China's AI Exports Database (CAIED), which is a tool that tracks Chinese government–supported development finance projects that used or enabled AI technology in the Global South between 2000 and 2017. The goal of the report is to explain the motivation, data source, and methodology of building the tool. This report also presents a detailed codebook for the database and explanations on how to use the interactive world map and country selector.

CAIED was built on AidData's Global Chinese Development Finance (GCDF) Dataset version 2.0. Using advanced data mining tools, the authors identified 155 projects enabling AI exports and described their characteristics in rich detail. Users can filter the world map by AI technology categories associated with the development finance projects and learn further details of the exported China AI project by clicking on the country of interest.

Key Findings

  • The authors developed the CAIED, a tool that tracks Chinese government-supported development finance projects that utilized or enabled AI technology in the Global South between 2000 and 2017. The database includes 155 AI applications and AI infrastructure projects that were exported to 64 countries worldwide and can be downloaded free.
  • CAIED was built on AidData's GCDF Dataset version 2.0, and the process included developing the string list, searching for AI projects from the GCDF dataset, generating AI application/infrastructure indicators, selecting project-level variables, and adding additional country-level information, such as the Freedom House index on country governance and WTO's data safety law status index.
  • The authors developed an interactive map visualizing China's AI export from CAIED. Users can view China's AI exports worldwide, apply filters for AI application/infrastructure projects, and browse project details by country.

The research reported here was funded by RAND-initiated research and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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