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Chinese Regulators Give AI Firms a Helping Hand

 |  October 9, 2023

By: Angela Huyue Zhang (Project Syndicate)

Should a Chinese tech firm decide to delve into generative artificial intelligence, prevalent perceptions suggest it would encounter substantial obstacles due to stringent government control. China was among the pioneer countries to enact legislation regulating this technology. However, a closer examination of the interim measures on AI reveals that China’s government is actively working to strengthen the industry, rather than impede it.

This alignment is hardly surprising, given China’s standing as a global AI leader, trailing closely behind the United States. China possesses ambitious plans for the sector and the capacity to ensure that its legal and regulatory framework promotes and facilitates homegrown innovation.

The interim measures concerning generative AI underscore this strategic intent. While an initial draft of the legislation by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) contained somewhat restrictive clauses, such as mandating AI service providers to guarantee the accuracy of training data and model outputs, and setting a tight three-month window for adjusting foundational models producing prohibited content, the final legislation significantly diluted these rules. The interim measures also narrowed their scope of application, primarily targeting public-facing enterprises and imposing content-based security assessments on those with a notable influence on public opinion.

While gaining approval from regulatory bodies involves additional costs and some uncertainty, there’s no indication that Chinese tech giants, with their substantial resources and compliance capabilities, will be deterred. Moreover, the CAC is not likely to create unnecessary obstacles. In fact, just a fortnight after the interim measures took effect, the agency granted approval to eight companies, including Baidu and SenseTime, to launch their chatbots.

Overall, the interim measures embody a cautious and permissive regulatory approach, alleviating industry apprehensions regarding potential policy risks. The legislation even includes provisions explicitly encouraging collaboration among major stakeholders in the AI supply chain, recognizing that technological innovation hinges on collaboration between government, industry, and academia…