In short: Google's Head of Head of Machine Perception Research Jay Yagnik appeared dismissive of the ongoing trade war between the US and China, referring to AI as a 'global event' at this year's World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. More directly, the executive says that technology has had the most lasting effect on humanity over the past several centuries and that AI is a disruptive force that will take society 'to the next level'. Because of that, it makes more sense for the focus of humanity to be centered around how to best make use of the technology. China, meanwhile, has one of the most engaged communities in the world with more than two million downloads of the company's TensorFlow machine learning tools. That makes partnering with China's AI talent an important step moving forward.
Background: With regard to the trade war, Yagnik only commented to say that global landscapes evolve quickly. Google's statements on that matter likely stem from both its precarious position in the region and ongoing confrontation with the US government. Aside from TensorFlow being made available within the region, most of the company's services and products are effectively banned from China due to what many refer to as the "Great Firewall." That harkens back to the country's government's notorious censorship and monitoring of web usage. Simultaneously, the search giant's efforts in the region and most notably its "Project Dragonfly" are causing a stir among US politicians. Coupled with allegations of deceptive data collections and questions about consumer privacy, Project Dragonfly is a controversial variation on Google Search which not only enables censorship but aids it. Moreover, the search requires a log-in and is purported to help with tracking of users. There's no launch date on that project but it has caused serious questions to be raised about Google's role in China and its ethical values.
Setting that aside, Google has managed to keep TensorFlow going in China in spite of bans on its ongoing issues. The company has found workarounds for issues that otherwise would have prevented Chinese developers from accessing the tools, for example. Elsewhere, GitHub and Reddit are common sources of information, files, and the sharing of other important aspects of developing on the platform. In China, Google has set up a WeChat channel that acts in place of those resources. Its also poured substantial resources into ensuring the tool is available in Chinese wherever possible to make using the platform easier for developers in the region. Its goals moving forward are primarily focused on health care, astronomy, and arts.
Impact: Google has invested considerable time and resources in China's developer community and to ensure that its most important contributions to technology, as a whole, are available to everyone. Its decision to ignore political, geographical, and cultural divisions, meanwhile, could be viewed as an appropriate stance to take for a global organization or as reckless. Regardless, the company does appear to be making headway in a region where it has historically been disallowed and renewing efforts to utilize AI in pursit of better health care and the sciences on a global scale.