Samsung agreed to enter an artificial intelligence partnership with China amid pressure from Beijing, BusinessKorea reported Friday, citing industry sources. The Seoul-based original equipment manufacturer and China's National Development and Reform Commission are said to be planning to sign a memorandum of understanding meant to ease the tensions between the two prompted by the current geopolitical situation in the Far East. Among other things, the agreement mandates collaborative development efforts in regards to a number of emerging technologies, with AI being one of its focal points, insiders claim.
The South Korean tech giant reportedly opted for such a move in order to try to stabilize its relations with Beijing and reverse its fortunes in the country that was once one of its largest smartphone markets on the planet but has marginalized its offerings in recent years. The recent tensions between Seoul and Beijing are largely related to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system that the United States installed near the country's border with North Korea, with China arguing the solution is a threat to its own country. As one of the drivers of the Korean economy, Samsung faced stiff opposition in China following the deployment of THAAD and the company came under additional pressure due to the rising memory chip prices that diminished Chinese phone makers' bottom lines over the course of 2017. The new memorandum of understanding Samsung is set to sign with NDRC would be a follow-up to the previous one that expired without being renewed due to political pressure, recent reports indicate.
While Samsung was always interested in continuing its collaboration with NDRC, the agreement that the two are now set to sign may not be as favorable for the company as the previous one, especially as the regulator is now understood to be investigating allegations of price-fixing semiconductor cartels and is specifically looking into the Korean tech juggernaut, sources claim. The eventual agreement between the two should put an end to their previous differences, though it remains to be seen whether it will end up requiring major concessions on Samsung's part. The company has already been making some AI investments in the Far Eastern country but is likely to significantly ramp up its efforts on that front if it ends up entering a formal AI agreement with NDRC.