Overseas Chinese liaison body chooses Tan Tieniu, computer scientist with eye on AI, as deputy chief

The opening ceremony on Thursday of the four-day congress was attended by China’s top leadership, including President Xi Jinping, Vice-President Han Zheng, and all members of the Politburo Standing Committee – the ruling party’s centre of power.

Delegates at the 11th national congress of returned overseas Chinese and their relatives, in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Xinhua
Tan, 59, had taken up his Nanjing University role last September, after nearly six years as deputy chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong – an appointment seen as part of the central government’s efforts to reach out to key academics and professionals.

His research interests include image processing, computer vision, and pattern recognition in the field of artificial intelligence, according to his Nanjing University faculty profile.

He has published more than 600 research papers and holds more than 100 granted patents, the profile says.

He was elected as an academician of the elite Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013, and has won several awards – including the prestigious King-Sun Fu Prize in 2022 in recognition of his contribution to the field of pattern recognition.

Tan’s Acfroc role comes as intensifying tech war with the United States sees China step up its scientific advancement and technological self-reliance drive. This has included increased efforts to cultivate young talent in technological fields and encouraging overseas talent to return to serve China.

In a keynote speech at the congress’ opening ceremony, Politburo Standing Committee member Li Xi called on overseas Chinese to contribute to China’s technological self-reliance and modernisation drive.


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To this end, overseas Chinese should utilise their comparative advantages in capital holding, their technological, information and management skills, as well as knowledge of international rules, Li – who is also the party’s top disciplinary chief – said.

Tan himself also emphasised the need for technological development when he worked in Hong Kong as liaison officer in charge of education and technology.

In an interview with party mouthpiece People’s Daily published in July, Tan spoke of the need to train talented individuals to inspire technological advancement and innovation to meet the country’s needs.

Students should be guided to actively work on cutting-edge innovation and technological shortfalls, he said.

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A native of central Hunan province, Tan received his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Xian Jiaotong University in 1984.

He then spent more than a decade in Britain, where he completed his master’s degree and doctorate at the Imperial College London, and later joined the University of Reading, working as a researcher and lecturer in the computer science department.

In 1998, Tan returned to China and served in several roles at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This included heading a key state laboratory at CAS as well as its Bureau of International Cooperation. He is also a fellow of CAS and became its vice-president in 2015.

Acfroc chairman Wan Lijun, who has served in the position since 2017 and was reelected on Saturday, is also an overseas returnee. The physical chemist studied and worked in Japan before returning to China in the late 1990s.


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