Artificial intelligence and education in China

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This paper examines the political economy of artificial intelligence (AI) and education in China, through an analysis of government policy and private sector enterprise. While media and policy discourse often portray China’s AI development in terms of a unified national strategy, and a burgeoning geopolitical contestation for future global dominance, this analysis will suggest a more nuanced internal complexity, involving differing regional networks and international corporate activity. The first section considers two key policy documents published by the central Chinese government, which are shown to implicate educational institutions as influential actors in national and regional strategies for AI development, with a significant role in plans to train domestic expertise. The second section outlines three prominent private education companies: New Oriental Group, Tomorrow Advancing Life (TAL), and Squirrel AI. These companies are selected to represent important aspects of China’s development of educational AI applications, including the influence of a well-established private education sector, and a growing interest in international corporate activity. The paper concludes with the suggestion that while central government policy reserves a significant role for education in the national AI strategy, the private sector is utilising favourable political conditions to rapidly develop educational applications and markets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLearning, Media and Technology
Early online date16 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Apr 2020


  • artificial intelligence
  • AI
  • China
  • political economy
  • policy
  • private education


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