The largest Chinese company announces the creation of a company that will develop artificial intelligence chips; seeks to reduce its dependence on foreign technology.
Alibaba will create its own company to manufacture computer chips while China seeks to reduce its dependence on foreign technology.
China’s largest technology firm announced on Wednesday that the new company will develop artificial intelligence chips for cloud computing, internet-connected devices and other sectors.
Alibaba’s technology director, Jeff Zhang, said the e-commerce company’s advantages in algorithms and data place it “in a unique position to lead real technological advances in disruptive areas, such as quantum and chip technology.”
Alibaba has made investments in chip manufacturers in the past. Earlier this year, he bought C-Sky, a Chinese chip design firm.
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has talked about addressing China’s strong dependence on chips made abroad.
“The chip market is controlled by the United States … and if they suddenly stop selling, what does that mean? You understand,” Ma told university students in Tokyo in April. “That’s why China, Japan and any country need basic technologies.”
Ma’s comments came shortly after the US Department of Commerce prevented US companies from selling parts to ZTE, a Chinese technology company that relied on US suppliers, including chip makers, to manufacture smartphones and telecommunications equipment.
The ban, which was already lifted under strict conditions, put ZTE on its knees and highlighted the risks of China’s dependence on technology manufactured abroad.
“The ZTE incident was a wake-up call” for Chinese leaders, said Minxin Pei, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, at a conference in Hong Kong this month.
But China’s local chip makers, which benefit from government support, are struggling to catch up with more established foreign rivals.
Alibaba provided few details about its new chip business and did not respond to requests for more information.
The name of the company, Pingtouge Semiconductor Company, refers to a Chinese nickname for the honey badger.
Zhang said at a conference on Wednesday that he hoped the new company would be inspired by the animal’s energetic nature.
“He is not afraid of anything, he dares to do everything,” he said.
The honey badger became famous on the Internet after a video with a blatant narrative showed him persevering in the face of extreme adversity.