China’s Tech Sector Sees Opportunity as Beijing Bans OpenAI’s ChatGPT

Regulators in Beijing have pressured major Chinese tech companies to withhold ChatGPT services to the public amid growing concerns over the AI chatbot’s uncensored messages, according to a Nikkei Asia report. The disallowance of OpenAI’s chatbot may propel the rise of China’s own AI chatbots to the technological forefront in the country.

The Microsoft-backed chatbot has been highly criticized in China. State-owned media outlet China Daily has accused ChatGPT of helping the US government distribute false information and manipulate global public opinion in order to safeguard its geopolitical interests. The outlet cited a chat session with ChatGPT in which its responses about Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, were consistent with the political propaganda of the US government. Due to ChatGPT’s references to the so-called “genocide” in Xinjiang, the media believed that the chatbot was biased and may be supporting US propaganda efforts.

Nikkei Asia quoted sources in Mainland China’s technology industry saying that China needs to have its own version of ChatGPT, believing that OpenAI’s product will not be able to enter China due to censorship.

The Chinese government is actively supporting domestic efforts to build large AI models. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology published a white paper on February 13 stating that efforts will be made to support the development of big AI models benchmarking ChatGPT. It will also support the development of ecosystems for applying open-source AI frameworks.

Wang Zhigang, Minister of Science and Technology in China, said on February 24 that the country would take appropriate measures to examine the ethical ramifications of new technologies, including AI and ChatGPT-like technologies, in order to ensure maximum benefits.

Shanghai will continue to tap into new technologies such as ChatGPT to enhance the city’s official e-governance platform. It aims to offer greater convenience to users and improve the efficiency of the platform’s online services, according to officials.

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Many of China’s leading companies are already making great efforts to incorporate AI-generated content (AIGC) and hasten the development of large language models. Baidu‘s large language model Ernie Bot will be launched in March this year. A ChatGPT-like product developed by Alibaba‘s DAMO Academy is reportedly in its internal testing stage. E-commerce giant‘s cloud arm will launch an industrial version of ChatGPT called ChatJD. Tencent has also promoted similar research.