Technology Jul 14

Baidu, China National rise to ‘new-infrastructure’ call 

Artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing at forefront of new deal to improve Chinese tech landscape

Baidu, China National rise ‘new-infrastructure’ call 

(ATF) The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial manufacturing is further deepening in China.

Baidu, China’s largest search engine, and China National Building Materials Group on July 13 signed a strategic cooperation agreement to carry out in-depth cooperation in so-called “new infrastructure” technology-linked projects.

They include building smart logistics networks, digital mines, smart factories, industrial unmanned driving, new data centres and developing enterprise “AI brains”, Beijing News reported. 

The agreement sees the companies responding to a national call for new infrastructure to accelerate the transformation of Chinese enterprises into digital intelligence companies. Internet service giant Tencent has also joined the fray with a plan to harness 5G capabilities for businesses, 

The first phase of the cooperation has been signed with a contract value of 27 million yuan ($3.8m), but the value of the entire strategic cooperation is expected to exceed 10 billion yuan. 

Li Yanhong, founder, chairman and CEO of Baidu, and Zhou Yuxian, secretary of the party committee and chairman of China National, met to sign the deal. Zhou Yuxian, Secretary of the Party Committee and Chairman of China Building Materials Group, Chang Zhangli, Member of the Standing Committee of the Party Committee and Deputy General Manager of China Building Materials Group, and Vice Presidents of China National Building Materials, Vice President Yang Zhaoming attended the signing ceremony.

READ MORE: Shanghai to invest 270bn yuan in 'new infrastructure' 

"At present, AI is profoundly changing the existing manufacturing production model, accelerating the application of automation equipment, and various intelligent chemical plants have begun to emerge,” Li Yanhong was quoted as saying, describing new infrastructure policies as a huge opportunity for business. 

“Baidu will work with China National to discuss the use of AI, cloud computing, Internet of Things, and unmanned driving to support enterprise innovation and development, make production smarter, and help China make it bigger and stronger.”

China National is claimed to be the world's largest comprehensive building materials industry group and the world's leading developer of new materials. It has been listed on the Fortune Global 500 list for nine consecutive years. 

Its total assets were 600bn yuan at the end of last year and annual operating income was more than 390bn yuan. It had 200,000 employees. 

The company has 13 listed companies, including two listed overseas. Its business areas include production of cement, gypsum board, glass fibre, wind power blades and cement glass. It also provides engineering technology services. 

Its involvement in ultra-thin electronic glass, high-performance carbon fibre, lithium batteries and ultra-high voltage electric porcelain production is also growing, the company said.

Earliest investor

Zhou Yuxian hailed Baidu as “the earliest investor, with the strongest technology, and most complete AI in China”. 

Baidu is the only Chinese company among the four major AI giants selected by the US Fortune magazine. It’s relying on full-stack, leading AI technology capabilities to build new technology infrastructures. 

Its self-developed AI operating system is China's first industrial-level deep learning platform. The Baidu Brain AI open platform and Baidu's AI Cloud ranks first in China. 

Intelligent manufacturing has become the “main attack direction” of countries around the world seeking to seize development opportunities, Zhou said. 

“The cooperation between Baidu and China National Building Materials Group will provide a template for the intelligent upgrading of Chinese manufacturing, promote more enterprises to accelerate integration with artificial intelligence, and promote the high-quality development of the Chinese economy with new manufacturing,” he added.

READ MORE: Huge investment in 'new infra' key to China's recovery