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Reigning in AI
By:Beijing Review
update:December 26,2023

Visitors interact with a humanoid robot at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on July 6 (XINHUA)
Dec.26, 2023 -- In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), governance frameworks play a pivotal role in ensuring that technological advances align with ethical standards and human rights protection. China combines regulation, ethical norms, and a focus on human rights in a comprehensive approach to AI governance.
The global nature of AI technology and its impact necessitates a perspective that embraces international cooperation and shared ethical frameworks. China advocates for global collaboration in navigating the complex terrain of ethics and human rights in the digital age.
Comprehensive framework
China is at the forefront of digital resource management, closely following international standards in regulating the ethics of emerging technologies such as AI. In addition to enacting relevant legislation, the country has made strides in creating a comprehensive framework. This includes well-rounded institutional norms that encompass development planning, governance principles, policies, ethical standards, and ethical review processes.
This holistic approach underlines China's commitment to not just harnessing the power of digital technologies but also ensuring their responsible and ethical application in the broader global context.
This approach not only promotes technological innovation, but also ensures that it progresses hand-in-hand with the protection of human rights, demonstrating a balanced and progressive model for the governance of digital technology.
One of the cornerstones of China's approach is the integration of ethical principles into the fabric of AI development and application.
This includes the establishment of ethics committees and guidelines for the responsible use of AI. These guidelines cover a range of issues, from ensuring transparency in AI systems to respecting user privacy and promoting AI literacy among the public. By institutionalizing these ethical considerations, China is setting a precedent for how nations can systematically address the many challenges posed by AI.
For instance, on September 25, 2021, the National Governance Committee for the New Generation Artificial Intelligence in China released the Ethics Norms for New Generation Artificial Intelligence. This seminal document laid out six core ethical principles: enhancing human well-being, promoting fairness and justice, safeguarding privacy and security, ensuring control and credibility, emphasizing responsibility, and fostering ethical literacy.
This initiative is a testament to China's foundational policy of harnessing science and technology for the benefit of its people. It embodies the nation's commitment to the principle of "science for good" and integrates the country's contemporary human rights perspective that "living a happy life is the primary human right" into both the design and implementation of its ethical AI governance system.
AI ethics
AI technology is significantly more disruptive than traditional technologies. Its rapid iteration and evolution, while driving technological progress, also introduces a range of uncertainties, conflicts and negative impacts that may go beyond their intended scope and evolve into social risks.
The ethical dimension of AI is complex, intricately woven into the technical design, product behavior, and application scenarios throughout the life-cycles of AI systems and services. It involves navigating the often conflicting interests of various stakeholders, including implementers, technical path developers, infrastructure owners and the general public. 
Recognizing the need for rigorous oversight, on September 7, 10 government departments in China, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, jointly drafted and issued the Measures on Science and Technology Ethics Review (Trial Implementation).
This initiative, which was approved by the Central Science and Technology Commission, marked a significant step forward. In particular, it mandated the establishment of a scientific and technological ethics (review) committee and specifically included AI in the committee's scope.
The new framework requires AI ethics review for four of seven categories of emerging technology activities deemed to pose significant risks, all of which are subject to list-based management.
This development underscores a proactive approach in China towards managing the ethical challenges posed by AI, ensuring that technological advancement is carefully balanced with ethical considerations and societal wellbeing. 
The ethical governance of AI is not just a matter of regulatory compliance; it is a fundamental necessity to ensure that technological advances benefit society as a whole. AI technologies have the potential to revolutionize industries, enhance efficiency and solve complex societal problems. However, without a strong ethical framework, the same technologies can exacerbate inequalities, infringe on privacy rights and perpetuate biases.
By prioritizing ethical considerations, China is acknowledging the complex interplay between technology and society and taking steps to ensure that AI serves the public interest.
Beyond borders
In a speech delivered on February 21, Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the imperative of adopting a forward-looking approach in planning and participating in global science and technology governance. He emphasized the necessity to refine laws, regulations, ethical review standards and regulatory frameworks.
Xi highlighted the critical need to strengthen AI ethics governance as a means to promote international human rights in the digital era. This involves several key strategies, including: advocating science and technology for good; strengthening science and technology ethics governance; and defining responsibilities, including clearly delineating the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the AI industry.
AI technologies and their impacts do not stop at national borders; their effects are felt worldwide.
The world is in urgent need of a global framework for AI governance that encompasses diverse cultural, ethical and legal perspectives. China's vision for AI governance is not only about technological control, but also about aligning technological advancements with social values.
By doing so, the country aims to ensure that its digital strategy and AI advancements contribute positively to both national and global human rights governance in the digital age.
The concept of human rights is both historically grounded and contemporaneously relevant. The fundamental purpose of science, aimed at alleviating human suffering, resonates with the core principle of deploying science and technology for the betterment of people and for the greater good.
This principle aligns seamlessly with the essence of human rights as we understand them today. Different from the world 75 years ago, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first proclaimed, in the current digital age, the impact of science and technology on individual well-being is unprecedented.
The advent of intelligent technology has not only transformed traditional social structures but also infused new theoretical depth and practical relevance into the concept of human rights in this new era.
In conclusion, to effectively advance global human rights governance in the age of intelligent technology, it is imperative to adapt to the evolving landscape, trends and characteristics of the human rights discourse. This involves placing significant emphasis on the ethical review of science and technology, refining the governance of scientific and technological ethics, and achieving a balance between technological innovation and human rights protection.
By: Han Xiutao. The author is the executive director of the Center for Sci&Tech and Human Rights Studies, Beijing Institute of Technology.
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