The EconomistThe Economist

Can Xi Jinping control AI without crushing it?

18 Apr 2023 · 6 min read

China's tech giants are showing off their AI models, with the promise of great commercial opportunities. The Economist argues that the Communist Party is wary of the tech's democratizing potential.

Curated by informed

IN THE PAST month or so, China’s tech giants have been showing off. Baidu, Huawei, SenseTime and Alibaba have all flaunted their artificial-intelligence (AI) models, which can power products and applications such as image generators, voice assistants and search engines. Some have introduced AI-powered chatbots similar to ChatGPT, the human-like conversationalist developed in America that has dazzled users. The new offerings have names like Ernie Bot (Baidu), SenseChat (SenseTime) and Tongyi Qianwen (Alibaba). The latter roughly translates as “truth from a thousand questions”. But in China the Communist Party defines the truth.

AI poses a challenge for China’s rulers. The “generative” sort, which processes inputs of text, image, audio or video to create new outputs of the same, holds great promise. Chinese tech firms, hit hard in recent years by a regulatory crackdown and the pandemic, see generative AI as creating vast new revenue streams, similar to the opportunities brought by the advent of the internet or the smartphone.

The news, curated.

Subscribe in our mobile app to continue reading this The Economist article

Already subscribed? Sign in

Get world-class journalism from premium publishers, curated by editors and experts. All in one app.

Subscribe now and get 14 days free.