Artificial Intelligence and its sub-category Machine Learning has gradually taken control of modern civilization. Regulations and mandatory rules are imposed across the globe. The concerns of personal information and privacy has led to the formation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 and identical regulations in United States. As AI algorithms evolves, the more complex and thorough refinement of laws are being imposed [1]. However, in contrast to GDPR and United States, China government emphasizes its nation welfare as priority. In this discussion, I will thoroughly walk through the Chinese government AI plans and compare the ethical regulations imposed by GDPR and Chinese government.

Chinese government ambitious goal for AI

Encouraging nation-wide-scale welfare, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is looking forward to bridging the gap of AI fields regardless the personal-right regulations that are universally enforced by western counterparts. With the abundance of the data, China plans to overtake the leading role in AI. In 2017, Chinese government set out “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” and exhibited the ambitious goals.

Nevertheless, there is significantly lagging in China’s capacity. China has not yet been able to produce high-performance Machine Learning chips [2]. Furthermore, China has heavily relied on imported chips to accelerate the industrious aspects of AI research [3].

Chinese government prioritizes development over comprehensive rights

As in 2017, Chinese government set out strategic aims in “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”. It comprehensively denoted Chinese government nation-wide ambition to advance its capacity of fields in technology, military, civilian, and society. The development, in fact, will not be conducted by the central government but private cooperations. It is appropriate to view the plan as the “wish-list” rather than central directive [4].

Regarding the private cooperations which advance the development of AI, Chinese government has selected 3 major giants, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, to undergo the development [5]. Baidu is assigned to autonomous driving, Alibaba undergoes the development of smart cities, and Tencent with computer vision for medical diagnoses.

Regarding AI regulations, Chinese government is comparatively slow in AI lawmaking and regulatory requirements compared to US and EU [6]. To be specific, Chinese government takes an opposite approach to western nations.

In 2014, Chinese government published a document entitled “Planning for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. This planned to create an enormous national database that records all citizens’ private information by monitoring WeChat [7]. With the severe Firewall and censorship, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are not accessible. Unlike Facebook and WhatsApp which are designed for the sole purpose of socializing or messaging, WeChat provides unlimited and all-in-one services of e-bank, doctor appointment, utility bill payment, booking the taxi, etc. [8]. The owner company of Tencent takes the incentive to store the data and accumulate the information to the database for the government.

The debate of AI ethics in China

Regardless the ambition set and comprehensively controlled by the government, there was principles defined by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology in 2019. This drafted eight principles including: human rights, privacy and fairness. Along with principles listed, the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China published a white paper on AI standards and ethics [9]. It exhaustively described AI ethical issues and privacy concerns. Three principles are outlined. First, the ultimate goal of AI is to benefit human welfare. Second, the responsibility and transparency of AI systems and solutions must be emphasized. Third, data should be properly supervised, and commercial entities should be able to protect their intellectual property [10].

Even though Chinese standards are comparatively extensive, the specifications are merely ‘voluntary’ national standards [10]. Chinese government prioritizes the party policy and political considerations [11]. The defining power of the government steer the course of data collection and usage regardless of legal and practical constraints.

Tug of war between development and ethical requirements

The comparison between regulations in China between GDPR is noteworthy. Samm Sacks emphasized few points in his study [12]. In the critics, he addressed: (1) Chinese standards are far-reaching in the fields of specific s of data. Chinese standards comprehensively extend to any personal data that may affect persons, property, mental, and physical health. (2) GDPR is permissive about certain consent requirements for personal information. (3) Chinese standards precisely elaborate what information is included in privacy notices, while GDPR does not. (4) China’s data protection policy enforces with security risk at national level. It provides a wider scope in contrast to GDPR regulations.

In contrast to the thoroughly defined policy by Chinese government, GDPR also practices a similar ‘public interests’ approach for legally handling personal data. However, the imposed rules are often lousily designed and neglected in practice [13]. Besides, the substantive influence of judicial system in EU must form the basis for the underlying multiple nations in a broad manner.

As for United States’ regulations, Mark Zuckerberg had exhibited the consequences of infringement of personal information. Despite Zuckerberg claimed that it is for the AI innovation against China, Facebook still had to pay five billion dollars to Federal Trade Commission [14].


In this discussion, we go through Chinese government ambitious goals and unfold the last authority of decision-making in China, Chinese Communist Party. Regardless widely accepted personal information regulations by United States and GDPR, China prioritizes the nation welfare and has selected leading roles in autonomous driving, smart cities, and computer vision. Besides, China plans to enrich socialization, military, civilization, and more according to New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. However, China is still lagging in hardware-wise and software-wise manners. To catch up, China requires hardware manufacturing techniques to produce high-performance chip for machine learning and researchers in AI fields. Even with the advance research utilities and enormous dataset, China still will face the general difficulties that widely challenged: the environment. As most AI developments are culturally, linguistically, and geographically bounded [2].


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[11] Juan, W.A.N.G. and Sida, L.I.U., 2019. Ordering power under the party: a relational approach to law and politics in China. Asian Journal of Law and Society, 6(1), pp.1-18.

[12] Sacks, S., 2018. New China data privacy standard looks more far-reaching than GDPR. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 29.

[13] Stevens, L.A., 2017. Public interest approach to data protection law: the meaning, value and utility of the public interest for research uses of data.

[14] Kafka, P., 2019. Facebook’s $5 billion fine and FTC settlement is a win for Facebook [WWW Document]. Vox. URL (accessed 11.26.22).