US-Based ChatGPT Highlights AI Development Gap With China

US-Based ChatGPT Highlights AI Development Gap With China

AI in Chinese society and culture has rapidly developed in the past decade. It has been implemented in schools, office buildings, and even factories since the COVID-19 breakout.

AI technology has been employed in various sectors, from payment technology to security and smart glasses, making it easier for workers to carry out their tasks. They have become a common sight in Chinese malls, banks, and restaurants.

The rise of ChatGPT in China is a significant point of discussion.

China’s AI strides

Although US-based OpenAI officially launched its chatbot in late 2020, its growth was visible in 2023 in China, as the Chinese government is aiming to be the global AI leader by 2030.

Many seem to doubt who would win the tech race between these two giants, but ChatGPT came to the scene.

China launched its alternative model after some months, though it seems to lag behind that of its Western counterpart in various ways.

The Minister of Science and Technology also acknowledged that China’s chatbots were far behind their US competition, and internet users in China were left with several questions, given that China is aiming to dominate the AI era.

Several answers have been proposed; some said tech startups in China only focus on fast applications rather than development and research, as China was not the first to release a ChatGPT-like product. To others, the language training model in China is more difficult because of its complex nature.

However, many agreed to the fact that the sensitive nature of the Chinese political scene made the development of ChatGPT-like platforms more challenging in China as their online environment is closely monitored and censored.

Chinese authorities propose rules for generative AI

Chinese authorities proposed rules for generative AI, making it mandatory that AI-generated content must align with the core values of socialism, whether images or text, and must not spread wrong information, harm national unity, or undermine the authority of the state. This was proposed in the summer of 2023. Users were also prevented from being overly dependent on AI by their service providers.

China’s tech companies launched their chatbots, but it was almost impossible to compete with ChatGPT as they were navigating several state-imposed restrictions. For example, an immediate shutdown of a conversation can result from asking Baidu’s Ernie chatbot simple questions about Chinese leadership.

Does this mean that China is losing in the AI revolution?

AI developments are affecting everyone in society, whether young or old, irrespective of your party membership. AI plays a vital role in China’s digital economy, especially with AI-powered social media, live streaming apps, and e-commerce platforms.

Also, Chinese authorities are working with big tech companies to make the messages of the Communist Party more appealing and accessible to Chinese people of all ages. The state newspaper, the People’s Daily, has introduced a virtual presenter.

The Chinese government always emphasizes a balance between political stability and economic growth. The tight control over digital development by the central government has meant this emphasis is on cyber sovereignty, collective support, “national harmony,” and maintaining power within the party.

The past year has made it clear that it may be time for us to shift our focus from the ‘AI battle’ between the West and China despite the success of ChatGPT and focus on their different approaches.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.