Five prominent Chinese technology companies, including Baidu and SenseTime Group, have officially launched their artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to the public following government clearance. This move aligns with China’s strategic aim to expand the usage of AI products, as it competes with the United States in the AI realm.
Baidu, a prominent player in China’s online search domain, revealed that its chatbot, Ernie Bot, resembling ChatGPT, is now accessible to the public. Similarly, SenseTime’s chatbot, SenseChat, is also fully available for user engagement.
Three emerging AI startups, namely Baichuan Intelligent Technology, Zhipu AI, and MiniMax, have concurrently announced the public release of their chatbots.
Notably, Baidu and SenseTime’s shares experienced positive gains in Hong Kong trading, with increments of 2.1 percent and 2.3 percent respectively, amid a broader market that was slightly down by 0.55 percent.
Unlike other countries, China mandates that companies must undergo security assessments and obtain official clearance before launching mass-market AI products. With the technology being a focal point of competition with the United States, Chinese authorities have expedited their support for domestic AI development.
Reports from Chinese media indicate that a total of 11 firms have secured government approvals for their AI initiatives, including ByteDance (owner of TikTok) and Tencent Holdings. However, both companies have not yet responded to requests for comments regarding their AI plans.
Baidu’s CEO Robin Li emphasized the significance of releasing Ernie Bot to the broader public, highlighting the value of real-world human feedback to enhance the chatbot’s capabilities. Furthermore, Baidu plans to introduce a series of “AI-native apps.”
The race to be the first to market holds immense importance in China’s competitive internet industry. Notably, Baidu’s Ernie Bot swiftly climbed to the top position in the free app category on Apple’s App Store in China after the announcement.
Analysts perceive the approved companies as having an early mover advantage, enabling them to refine their products more efficiently than competitors. Kai Wang, an analyst at Morningstar, acknowledged this dynamic.
Amid these developments, ChatGPT developer OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, is projected to generate revenue exceeding $1 billion in the next 12 months, according to The Information.
The government’s anticipated approvals align with new interim regulations for public use of generative AI products that came into effect on August 15. These regulations expand the scope of AI product testing and marketing, signaling a substantial shift from the previous limited-scale public tests. Notably, products targeting businesses do not require prior government approval.
Shawn Yang, an analyst at Blue Lotus Capital Advisors, foresees that the government’s approval of AI products could lead to industry consolidation. He highlighted the potential for those with strong data and technological capabilities to drive the industry forward.