China’s AI Models for Public Use Surpass 40 in Six Months

China has been accelerating its artificial intelligence (AI) development in the past six months, as it approved more than 40 AI models for public use, according to Chinese media. The country is aiming to catch up with the US, which leads the world in AI innovation and applications.

China’s approval process for AI models for public use

China introduced a new regulation in August 2023, requiring tech companies to obtain approval from regulators before opening their large language models (LLMs) to the public. LLMs are AI systems that can generate natural language texts based on massive amounts of data. They have various applications, such as chatbots, content creation, and information retrieval.

The regulation was meant to ensure the quality and safety of the AI models, as well as to prevent the misuse or abuse of the technology. It also reflected China’s desire to control and oversee the development of AI in the country, which has strategic and economic implications.

Since then, China has granted four batches of approvals to different companies, totaling more than 40 AI models for public use. The latest batch was announced last week, which included 14 LLMs from companies such as Xiaomi, 4Paradigm, and 01.AI, according to the state-backed Securities Times.

The first batch of approvals was given to some of China’s tech giants, such as Baidu, Alibaba, and ByteDance, in August 2023. The second and third batches were approved in November and December 2023, respectively. The government has not disclosed the full list of approved companies or models, but the Securities Times reported that they cover various domains, such as education, finance, healthcare, and entertainment.

AI models for public use

China’s AI ambition and competition with the US

China’s approval process for AI models for public use was partly motivated by the global sensation caused by OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT in 2022. ChatGPT was a breakthrough in AI research, as it demonstrated the ability to generate coherent and engaging texts on any topic, based on a powerful LLM trained on billions of words from the internet.

ChatGPT sparked a wave of interest and innovation in the field of AI, especially in the US, which has been leading the world in AI research and development. The US has also been implementing policies and strategies to foster and regulate the growth of AI, such as the executive order issued by President Joe Biden in October 2023, which outlined clear rules and oversight measures for AI.

China, on the other hand, has been lagging behind the US in terms of AI quality and quantity, despite having a large number of LLMs in development. According to brokerage CLSA, China had 130 LLMs in 2022, accounting for 40% of the global total, but still trailing behind the US’s 50% share.

China has also been facing challenges and risks in developing AI, such as data quality, ethical issues, social impacts, and international relations. China has been accused of using AI for surveillance, censorship, and human rights violations, which has drawn criticism and sanctions from the US and other countries.

However, China has also shown its ambition and determination to become a global leader in AI, as it has invested heavily in AI research and education, as well as in building AI infrastructure and platforms. China has also launched several national initiatives and projects to promote and support the development of AI, such as the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, the National Open Innovation Platform for Next Generation Artificial Intelligence, and the China Brain Project.

One of China’s achievements in AI is Baidu’s Ernie Bot, which is one of the leading ChatGPT-like chatbots in the world. Ernie Bot has attracted more than 100 million users, according to Baidu’s CTO in December 2023. Ernie Bot was also recently incorporated into the Samsung Galaxy S24 model, which shows its potential and popularity.

China’s approval of over 40 AI models for public use in six months is another sign of its AI progress and ambition, as it competes with the US in the field of artificial intelligence. However, China still faces many challenges and uncertainties in achieving its AI goals, as it has to balance the benefits and risks of the technology, as well as the domestic and international pressures.