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Photo: Oed / ullstein bild / Getty

Artificial intelligence is becoming a dimension of grand geopolitics, with countries worried about who will achieve the big advances first, and the technology merging with traditional military doctrine.

Why it matters: AI is now "about political dominance. It's fear over who has the better AI system," Deepashri Varadharajan, an analyst with CB Insights who wrote a new AI report published today, tells Axios.

The Chinese juggernaut is broad, with an effort to deploy AI in its military, agriculture, logistics, healthcare and media sectors, the report said.

  • Worried about China's advances, Japan and India have combined forces to introduce AI and robotics into their defense sectors, the Times of India reports.

The trend is notable in two areas — patents and startups:

  • Last year, Chinese companies accounted for just 9% of AI startup deals done globally. But those deals comprised 48% of the dollar value, compared with 38% for American startups. In 2016, the Chinese share was 11.3%.
  • Chinese-backed equity invested in 31 American AI startups last year. U.S. firms invested in 20 Chinese AI startups.
  • Patents are not proof of actual innovation, but as an indicator of determination, 641 patents asserting AI were published in China last year, compared with 130 in the U.S.

China is especially keen on two strategic areas of AI — facial recognition, a pillar of its elevated efforts at state surveillance; and AI chips, in order to make a "direct challenge to U.S.-made chips," by companies like Nvidia, CB said. Other points made in CB's report:

Cyber is the new missile gap
  • Like the "missile gap" with the Soviets that then-Sen. John Kennedy claimed in the 1960 presidential campaign, governments today talk of cyber vulnerability.
  • Cybersecurity and conventional defense spending are merging, including defenses sought against ransomware attacks and election meddling. AI can help because "attacks are constantly evolving and defenses frequently face previously unknown types of malware," the report said.
  • 134 cyber startups have raised $3.6b in equity funding in the last five years. Larger cyber actors like Cybereason, CrowdStrike, Cylance and Tanium are nearing unicorn valuations.
White collar jobs in the bullseye
  • New AI-assisted software is encroaching on law, wealth management, trading, media — even coding itself. In the latter, startups are beginning to automate tasks like catching coding bugs, creating custom code and translating one code to another.
AI millionaires
  • BMW China, according to the report, last year listed a senior AI research job at $567,000-$642,000 a year. Other AI jobs were listed at $315k to 410k.
  • The problem is a severe shortage of first-rate AI talent. In response, companies are routinely offering salaries of $300,000 a year and above.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

Del Rio bridge camp empty following Haitian migrant surge

A boy bathes himself in a jug of water inside a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 21 in Del Rio, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The last migrants camping under the Del Rio International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, departed on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced during a White House press briefing.

Driving the news: Thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, had arrived to the makeshift camp after crossing the southern border seeking asylum. Roughly 1,800 migrants will now head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.

White House says it expects federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said in new guidance Friday that it expects millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: Companies with federal contractors have been waiting for formal guidance from the White House before requiring those employees to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.