China approves domestic ChatGPT-like products from Baidu, others

By Josh Ye and Urvi Manoj Dugar

(Reuters) -At least three Chinese tech firms including Baidu, Baichuan Intelligent Technology and Zhipu AI are on Thursday launching artificial intelligence (AI) products after getting government approval as China accelerates AI deployment.

Baidu, China’s leading online search provider, said in a statement its ChatGPT-like AI chatbot Ernie Bot would be fully open to the general public.

Two AI startups, Baichuan Intelligent Technology and Zhipu AI, also said their chatbots would be officially launched on Thursday.

All three said their products had received government approval.

Baidu’s shares were up about 4.5% in early trade in Hong Kong.

Unlike in Western countries where AI products can be launched without regulatory approval, China requires companies to submit security assessments and get clearance before releasing mass market AI products.

Authorities have recently accelerated efforts to support companies to develop AI as the technology increasingly becomes a focus of competition with the U.S.

Chinese media reported that a total of 11 firms had received approvals from the government, including TikTok maker ByteDance and SenseTime Group. Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment.

SenseTime’s shares gained about 4% in Hong Kong after the market opened.

Regulatory approvals was widely anticipated after China published a set of interim rules aimed at regulating generative AI products for the public that went into effect on Aug. 5.

Previously, companies were only allowed to conduct small-scale public tests of AI products but with the new rules, companies have widened their AI product tests by enabling more features and engaging in more marketing.

(Reporting by Urvi Dugar and Jyoti Narayan in Bengaluru; Josh Ye in Hong KongEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Richard Chang)