China’s tech giants plan ChatGPT clones – and Beijing is watching closely

China's tech giants announce their plans for ChatGPT rivals

Chinese tech giants last week announced their intentions to launch ChatGPT-style products, joining the artificial intelligence arms race unleashed by the popular chatbot.

But announcements by China’s biggest companies didn’t say they were working on comprehensive platforms like the US’s ChatGPT, a move that could worry Beijing, which heavily censors internet content. Instead, companies alibaba for NetEase talked about the technology in specific application scenarios.

“Given all the regulatory focus on technology platforms and AI algorithms over the past year by a range of government bodies, the big tech platforms are not eager to draw attention to themselves by launching a chatbot/generative AI tool. that leaves them in an uproar,” Paul Triolo, technology policy lead at consulting firm Albright Stonebridge, told CNBC.

ChatGPT is developed by the American company OpenAI. The product allows people to type questions and receive answers on a wide variety of topics. It is an example of generative AI, which is trained on large amounts of data and can generate responses based on text or even images.

Chinese authorities have tight controls over Internet content, often blocking websites or censoring content that Beijing doesn’t like. ChatGPT is not officially blocked in China, but OpenAI does not allow users in the country to apply.

The fact that ChatGPT answers questions about sensitive topics in China is likely a concern for Beijing officials.

“ChatGPT presents some unique challenges for Beijing. The app, trained on uncensored Western data, represents a more powerful type of search engine than Google or others that are also uncensored outside of China,” Triolo said, adding that ” I wouldn’t be surprised” if the service ended up being blocked in the world’s second largest economy.

ChatGPT response from China

BaiduAlibaba, and NetEase, some of China’s biggest tech companies, last week announced their plans to rival ChatGPT. It comes after two years of intense scrutiny by Chinese regulators of the country’s tech companies, which has seen the introduction of new regulations covering issues such as antitrust and data protection.

Chinese tech companies have had to adapt to a new regulatory situation, and their announcements about their responses to ChatGPT, which were circumspect, reflect this reality.

Alibaba announced through its cloud division that it is working on ChatGPT-style technology that can be integrated into its cloud computing products. Meanwhile, NetEase said its education subsidiary Youdao is working on generative AI, adding that the technology could be integrated into some of its education products.

China lagging behind in AI chatbot technology, says research firm

Chinese e-commerce company said it will launch an “industrial version” of ChatGPT called ChatJD, which will focus on applications in the retail and finance sector.

Big companies have been very focused on enterprise applications and have been very specific in trying to strike a balance between investing in key technology and avoiding rocking the political boat.

“In their responses, these tech giants face a dilemma: on the one hand, they need to convince consumers and investors that they are not falling behind in the development of new technology,” said Xin Sun, senior professor of China business and East Asia at King’s College London, he told CNBC via email.

“On the other hand, they also need to be extremely cautious to avoid being perceived by the government as developing new products, services and business models that could raise new political and security concerns for the party-state (or even cause radical changes in the landscape). existing regulatory framework).”

This balancing act could mean that using ChatGPT-style technology in China might look different than in the US, given the unique internet landscape there.

regulatory question marks

Artificial intelligence development remains a key priority for China as it continues its technological competition with the US.

But at the same time, regulators have tried to oversee the way the technology is being used. And this is the current balance that Beijing is trying to achieve.

Last month, China introduced a first-of-its-kind regulation on so-called deep synthesis technology, which is synthetically generated or altered images, videos or text made using a form of artificial intelligence. Regulation is overseen by China’s increasingly powerful Cyberspace Administration.

Last year, the CAC also introduced rules governing how companies operate recommendation algorithms. One of the requirements is that companies need to file details of their algorithms with the cyberspace regulator.

Such regulations may apply to any type of ChatGPT-style technology.

“The ‘Deep Syntheses Tech’ regulation broadly covers algorithms that deal with multiple dimensions of data and information. Coupled with the previous CAC algorithm rule, it is very likely that ChatGPT-type algorithms in China will need to be registered and supervised by the CAC”, Winston Ma, an associate professor of law at New York University School of Law, told CNBC via email.

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