China approves over 40 AI models for public use in past six months

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai

By Josh Ye

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has approved more than 40 artificial intelligence (AI) models for public use in the first six months since authorities began the approval process, as the country strives to catch up to the U.S. in AI development, according to Chinese media.

Chinese regulators granted approvals to a total of 14 large language models (LLM) for public use last week, Chinese state-backed Securities Times reported. It marks the fourth batch of approvals China has granted, which counts Xiaomi Corp, 4Paradigm and 01.AI among the recipients.

Beijing started requiring tech companies to obtain approval from regulators to open their LLMs to the public last August. It underscored China's approach towards developing AI technology while striving to keep it under its purview and control.

Beijing approved its first batch of AI models in August shortly after the approval process was adopted. Baidu, Alibaba and ByteDance were among China's first companies to receive approvals.

Chinese regulators then granted two more batches of approvals in November and December before another batch was given the greenlight this month. While the government has not disclosed the exact list of approved companies available for public checks, Securities Times said on Sunday more than 40 AI models have been approved.

Chinese companies have been rushing to develop AI products ever since OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT took the world by storm in 2022.

At the time, China had 130 LLMs, accounting for 40% of the global total and just behind the United States' 50% share, according to brokerage CLSA.

One of China's leading ChatGPT-like chatbots, Baidu's Ernie Bot, has garnered more than 100 million users, according to the company's CTO in December.

(This story has been refiled to restore dropped words in paragraph 1)

(Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)