China focuses on generative AI with ChatGPT rival Ernie

5 Sep 2023

Image: © JHVEPhoto/

China’s government has approved the public release of multiple AI chatbots recently, though trade restrictions from the US could hamper the country’s AI development.

China has made a renewed push in the generative AI sector, with the release of multiple high-profile AI chatbots over the past week to challenge the dominance of tools like ChatGPT.

The most notable of these is Ernie, an AI chatbot created by tech giant Baidu. This AI model was made publicly available last week after receiving government approval. The AI chatbot’s features bear a similarity to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, with the ability to respond to questions, give analysis and create documents for users, according to its website.

But Ernie isn’t the only AI model being released to the public, as China’s government recently gave approval for five Chinese tech firms – including Baidu – to release AI chatbots to the public, Reuters reports.

This has been boosted again today (5 September), with 360 Security Technology and iFlytek receiving similar approval to release their AI models. Reuters claims Chinese companies must receive government clearance before their AI products can be made publicly available.

The recent wave of approvals suggests China is refocusing its efforts to develop AI technology, which has become one of the hot topics in the global tech sector.

Recent statistics suggest that the US is projected to hold the highest share in the generative AI market this year, though other reports suggest China isn’t far behind.

A recent report by France24 claims China’s AI market is worth €20bn and that AI technology is having a large impact on personal and workplace life in the country. Meanwhile, Baidu CEO Robin Li recently claimed that more than 70 AI models with more than 1bn parameters have been released in China, Reuters reports.

Other Chinese companies have already made pushes into the generative AI market. In April, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Cloud shared details of its large language model – Tongyi Qianwen – and said it would be integrated across the company’s businesses to improve customer experiences.

Alibaba also recently revealed two new AI models last month, including one that has the ability to understand images, CNBC reports.

However, China’s endeavours into AI are also being hampered by ongoing trade issues with the US. Other countries have joined in imposing restrictions since the US curbed exports on chip and related technologies from US-based companies to China late last year.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic