Chinese AI company iFlyTek thrives despite techno-trade war

Business & Technology

iFlyTek, a partially state-owned information technology firm specializing in artificial intelligence voice-recognition software, announced (in Chinese) on Monday that its 2019 revenue is estimated to have exceeded 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion). iFlyTek says the profits potentially represent year-on-year growth of “35 to 65%” despite the U.S.-led effort to limit China’s global technology exports amid the U.S.-China trade war. 

In May 2019, the U.S. Commerce Department added Huawei to its Entity List, banning the company from purchasing U.S.-made components and software. Five months later, 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight leading artificial intelligence tech firms, including iFlyTek, were added to the trade blacklist, on the basis of allegations that their technologies are used to surveil Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang (porous paywall).

iFlyTek’s announcement on rapid growth shows Chinese AI companies can thrive despite U.S. attempts to thwart their development. iFlyTek’s translation products are used in 200 countries and regions globally. Thirty-five thousand schools in China use its education products, and 1,200 health centers use its “smart doctor assistant.”

China is investing heavily in artificial intelligence, and the government plans to have a $1 trillion AI industry by 2030. By comparison, the global AI market is projected to reach an estimated $54 billion by 2026. See Sinovation Ventures and the Eurasia Group’s excellent report on the state of AI in China.