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China allows Baidu, other tech companies to release their ChatGPT-like chatbots to the public

The big four technology companies in China, like Baidu and SenseTime Group, have publicly launched their artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots after receiving approval from the Chinese government.

This move comes as China aims to expand the use of AI products and technology, particularly in competition with the United States.

China releases AI to the general public.
Baidu, China’s top online search engine, announced that its ChatGPT-rival named, Ernie Bot, which is similar to ChatGPT, is now fully accessible to the public.

SenseTime’s chatbot, SenseChat, is also available to serve all users, according to a company spokesperson. Two other AI startups, Baichuan Intelligent Technology and Zhipu AI, have also launched their chatbots to the public.

Unlike many other countries, China requires companies to undergo security assessments and gain clearance before releasing mass-market AI products. This recent wave of approvals is part of China’s efforts to support AI development, recognizing the growing significance of AI technology in global competition.

Issue with Alibaba
Chinese media reports suggested that 11 firms, including ByteDance, owner of TikTok, and Tencent Holdings, have received government approvals for their AI products. Alibaba’s status in this regard remains uncertain, although the company has indicated that it has completed filings for its AI model and is awaiting official launch.

Being the first to market in China is crucial in its competitive internet industry. Baidu’s Ernie Bot, for instance, quickly rose to the top of the free app category on China’s Apple App Store after its public launch.

Heavily regulated
The approval process was widely anticipated after China introduced interim rules to regulate generative AI products for public use, effective August 15. Previously, companies could only conduct small-scale general tests of AI products.

However, the new rules permit more extensive product testing and marketing without prior government approval for products targeting businesses.

Industry experts believe that the government’s move to greenlight AI products could lead to consolidation in the industry, with only companies possessing the necessary data and technological capabilities able to thrive.

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