Britain invites China to its global AI summit

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain has invited China to its global artificial intelligence (AI) summit in November, with foreign minister James Cleverly saying the risks of the technology could not be contained if one of its leading players was absent.

“We cannot keep the UK public safe from the risks of AI if we exclude one of the leading nations in AI tech,” Cleverly said in a statement on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants Britain to become a global leader in AI regulation and the summit on Nov. 1-2 will bring together governments, tech companies and academics to discuss the risks posed by the powerful new technology.

Britain said the event would touch on topics such as how AI could undermine biosecurity as well as how the technology could be used for public good, for example in safer transport.

Cleverly, who became the most senior minister to visit China in five years last month, has argued for deeper engagement with Beijing, saying it would be a mistake to try to isolate the world’s second-largest economy and China’s help was needed in areas such as climate change and economic instability.

“The UK’s approach to China is to protect our institutions and infrastructure, align with partners and engage where it is in the UK’s national interest,” Cleverly said on Tuesday.

London is trying to improve ties with Beijing but there has been growing anxiety about Chinese activity in Britain in recent weeks after it was revealed that a parliamentary researcher was arrested in March on suspicion of spying for the country.

The Chinese embassy in London was not immediately able to say if China would attend the summit.

Britain has appointed tech expert Matt Clifford and former senior diplomat Jonathan Black to lead preparations for the summit.

Clifford told Reuters last month that he hoped the gathering would set the tone for future international debates on AI regulation.

(Reporting by William James and Andrew MacAskill, writing by Sarah Young and Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton and Christina Fincher)