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Harvard-Educated Professor Is Propelling China's AI Ambitions


Andrew Chi-Chih Yao at a seminar in 2016

Andrew Yao urged China to "take a step ahead of others" in AI research.

At a time of division between the United States and China, artificial intelligence is a point of friction.

One of the field's most influential figures is Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, whose education and professional life have straddled the world's two biggest economies. China-born and Harvard-trained, Yao is his country's only recipient of the Turing Award. After almost 40 years in the U.S., he returned to China in 2004. Now he teaches a prestigious university class that has shaped some of the country's biggest AI startups, informed government policy, and molded a generation of academics.

The "Yao Class" — an undergraduate computer science course at Beijing's Tsinghua University — has exerted a profound impact on the country's technology pioneers and growing scientific prowess. Its graduates form a powerful network across the country, advising on each others' projects and pooling resources and capital where needed. 

Yao's acolytes have created startups worth more than $12 billion at their peak. Others teach at top-flight American universities including Stanford and Princeton.

From Bloomberg
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