Chinese tech giants last week announced their intention to launch ChatGPT-style products and join the artificial intelligence arms race sparked by the popular chatbot.
But announcements from China’s biggest firms haven’t said they are working on all-encompassing platforms like the US’s ChatGPT, a move that could worry Beijing, which heavily censors internet content. Instead companies out Alibaba To NetEase talked about the technology in application-specific scenarios.
“With the regulatory focus on tech platforms and AI algorithms over the past year by a number of government agencies, the major tech platforms are not keen on drawing attention to themselves by releasing a chatbot/generative AI tool that they hot makes water,” Paul Triolo, head of technology policy at consulting firm Albright Stonebridge, told CNBC.
ChatGPT is developed by the US company OpenAI. The product allows people to enter questions and get answers on a variety of topics. It’s an example of generative AI that’s trained on massive amounts of data and can generate text-based responses or even images.
Chinese authorities have strong control over internet content, often blocking websites or censoring content that doesn’t sit well with Beijing. ChatGPT is not officially blocked in China, but OpenAI does not allow users in the country to log in.
The fact that ChatGPT will answer questions about sensitive issues in China is likely to worry Beijing authorities.
“ChatGPT poses some unique challenges for Beijing. The app, trained on Western uncensored data, represents a more powerful type of search engine than Google or others that are also uncensored outside of China,” Triolo said, adding that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the service ranked second economy of the world would eventually be blocked.
China’s ChatGPT response
baidualibaba, JD.com and NetEase, some of China’s biggest tech companies, announced their plans for ChatGPT competitors last week. It comes after two years of intense scrutiny of the country’s tech companies by Chinese regulators, which saw new regulations introduced on issues like antitrust and privacy.
Chinese tech companies have had to adapt to a new regulatory situation, and their announcements surrounding their ChatGPT responses, being prudent, reflect that reality.
Alibaba announced through its cloud division that it is working on ChatGPT-style technology that could be integrated into its cloud computing products. NetEase, meanwhile, said its education subsidiary Youdao has been working on generative AI, adding that the technology could be integrated into some of its education products.
Chinese e-commerce company JD.com said it will release an “industrial version” of ChatGPT called ChatJD, which will focus on applications in the retail and financial industries.
The big firms have been very focused on enterprise applications and have been quite specific in trying to balance investment in key technologies while trying not to rock the political boat.
“These tech giants face a dilemma in responding: on the one hand, they need to convince consumers and investors that they are not lagging behind in developing the new technology,” said Xin Sun, Senior Lecturer in China and East Asian Business at King’s College London CNBC via email with.
“On the other hand, they must also be extremely careful not to be perceived by the government as developers of new products, services and business models that could raise new political and security concerns for the party-state (or even bring about radical changes to the party-state’s existing regulatory landscape). “
Such a balancing act could mean that the use of ChatGPT technology in China might look different than in the US, given the country’s unique internet landscape.
Regulatory Question Marks
Artificial intelligence development remains a key priority for China as it continues its technology competition with the US
At the same time, however, regulators have tried to keep tabs on how the technology is being used. And that is the current balance that Beijing is trying to strike.
Last month, China introduced the first-of-its-kind regulation on so-called deep synthesis technology, which is synthetically generated or altered images, videos or text created using a form of artificial intelligence. Regulation is overseen by the increasingly powerful Cyberspace Administration of China.
Last year, the CAC also introduced rules governing the way companies operate recommendation algorithms. One of the requirements is that companies must submit details of their algorithms to the cyberspace regulator.
Such regulations could apply to any type of ChatGPT-style technology.
“The Deep Synthesis Tech regulation broadly covers the algorithms that deal with multiple dimensions of data and information. Along with the previous CAC algorithm rule, it is highly likely that ChatGPT-like algorithms in China will need to be registered and overseen by the CAC,” Winston Ma, associate professor of law at New York University School of Law, said via email to CNBC.