How and why is China rushing to regulate artificial intelligence too

Elizabeth Smith

China certainly has no intention of standing by and watching the rapid progress made by the United States in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). If ChatGpt has Microsoft, among others, behind it, Beijing responds with its Big Tech. From Alibaba to Tencent, via Baidu and not forgetting SenseTime.

But while the whole world ponders how to regulate AI before it overtakes humans and the so-called technological singularity phenomenon takes place, China is already running for cover. This, because of the effect chatbots can have on ‘social mobilisation’.

And, has announced measures to manage generative AI services. Proposing the rules is the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China’s internet regulator.

Preserving socialist values and data protection

The CAC has proposed that artificial intelligence products developed in China undergo a ‘security assessment’ before they are available to the public.

The aim is to ensure the ‘sound development and standardised application’ of generative AI technology.

China, according to the CAC’s statement, ‘supports the innovation and application of AI and encourages the use of safe and reliable software, tools and data resources. But content produced by generative AI must be in line with the country’s fundamental socialist values‘. As well as data security and personal information protection laws.

Should the platforms generate inappropriate content, companies should update the technology within three months to prevent it from being generated again.

Vendors will be responsible for the legitimacy of data used to train generative AI software. And will have to take measures to prevent discrimination in the design of algorithms and training data. The regulator also stated that service providers must require users to declare their real identity and related information.

Suppliers who fail to comply with the rules will get a fine of at least 10,000 yuan. And, their services suspended. But could also face criminal investigation.

What Beijing fears

But besides wanting to regulate AI like many other countries, China seems to fear the influence it can have on society. Indeed, when the CAC cites the defence of ‘socialist values’, it also adds that the content generated ‘must not contain subversion of state power’.

The proposal comes just as China is rushing into the artificial intelligence race launched by the US-based OpenAI with its ChatGpt. Which, has never landed in the Asian country. Baidu is testing its Ernie Bot, SenseTime and Alibaba have respectively launched SenseChat and Tongyi Qianwen.

But while ChatGpt has been tested and continues to be tested by the general public in many countries around the world, Chinese chatbots are not yet available to everyone. And it is unclear when they will be.

The consequences in the United States

Although, according to Bloomberg analysts, the CAC rules will probably influence how Chinese AI models are trained in the future, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee argues that China may have the upper hand. This, thanks to its rapid prototyping, consumer data collection, and government support.

It is indeed true that, in 2022, funding for US-based AI startups was more than five times that of China. However, for Kai-Fu, ‘the US may be leading the way in AI breakthroughs. But Chinese entrepreneurs are better at putting them into practice’.

We will see how things will play out in the future. When in addition to censorship at home, Chinese chatbots will also have to contend with US restrictions on technology exports.

Read also: ChatGPT worries Biden: CEOs of Microsoft, Google and OpenAI summoned to the White House

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