China attends UK AI summit amid Tory furore and Musk welcome

Between the 1st and 2nd of November, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak convened and hosted the inaugural AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes outside London.

Attending the sessions were the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, US Vice President Kamala Harris, executives from AI industry giants such as OpenAI Meta and Google DeepMind, as well as academics from various countries. However, two invitees are among the most watched: Wu Zhaohui, China’s vice minister of science and technology and Tesla boss Elon Musk.

Sunak’s decision to invite China has caused fury among hard-line Conservatives. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss openly urged Sunak to “reconsider” while party grandee Iain Duncan Smith compared the move to “letting the cat in with canaries”. Sunak, however, doubled down on the invitation and insisted it was “absolutely the right thing to do”. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden later clarified that China was not invited to some of the sessions during the summit where the UK would prefer to work with “like-minded” countries.

Musk, on the other hand, was given the rockstar treatment, including a streamed fireplace chat with Sunak at Downing Street despite being called out that his new AI venture xAI is not of the same calibre as the major players. Musk hailed Sunak’s decision to invite China as “essential” and said that it would be “pointless” not having China at the summit.

China, along with the US and 26 other nations, pledged in what is called the Bletchley Declaration, to co-operate and ensure the use of AI is “human-centric, trustworthy and responsible”. Wu spoke at the opening, calling for all parties to “respect international law” and curb malicious AI usage, since the technology is “uncertain, unexplainable and lacks transparency”.

Chinese experts also participated in sessions during the summit. Top Professor from Chinese Academy of Sciences Yi Zeng chaired a panel on the risks of AI developing “dangerous capabilities” unexpectedly. Several other scientists from top Chinese universities were also invited to the summit.


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