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Microsoft Won’t Follow OpenAI in Blocking China’s Access to AI Models


OpenAI’s upcoming ban on application programming interface (API) access to its artificial intelligence (AI) models in China doesn’t apply to Microsoft Azure’s customers in the country.

Azure operates in China via a joint venture and has made it clear in public statements that the AI models are available to its customers in the country, Seeking Alpha reported Monday (July 8), citing a paywalled article from The Information.

OpenAI will reportedly block Chinese users from accessing its APIs beginning Tuesday (July 9), according to the report.

Reached by PYMNTS, a Microsoft spokesperson said that there has been no change to Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service offerings in China; that the company continues to provide access to eligible customers in the country, via models deployed in regions outside China; and that OpenAI, being an independent company, makes its own decisions.
OpenAI did not immediately reply to PYMNTS’ request for comment.

It was reported on June 25 that OpenAI planned to take added measures to restrict China’s access to its AI software by enforcing a policy the company already has to bar users in nations other than the territory the company supports.

Bloomberg noted in the report that OpenAI supports access to its services in dozens of countries, and that the company’s guidelines say people accessing its products in countries not included on that list, like China, could have their accounts blocked or suspended.

While the company’s ChatGPT is not available in mainland China, companies have been able to build their own applications by accessing its API platform, Reuters reported June 25.

“We are taking additional steps to block API traffic from regions where we do not support access to OpenAI’s services,” an OpenAI spokesperson said in the report.

It was reported in January that the Biden administration proposed stringent regulations on major cloud service providers, including Microsoft, to compel these companies to identify and actively investigate foreign clients engaged in the development of AI applications on their platforms.

The Biden administration has also worked to limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors.

China’s rapid development of AI and other next-generation technologies has become a primary concern for the Biden administration, viewing Beijing as a key global strategic competitor.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said in a recently released report that China has emerged as the dominant force in generative AI patents, filing more than six times as many such patents as the United States.