‘Too many’ AI models in China: Baidu CEO warns of wasted resources, lack of applications
“In 2023, intense competition among over 100 LLMs has emerged in China, resulting in a significant waste of resources, particularly computing power,” Li said during a panel discussion at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai on Thursday.
Li called on developers to build more practical applications rather than continuously tweaking the technology that underpins generative AI (GenAI) products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

“I’ve noticed that many people still primarily focus on foundational models,” he said. “But I want to ask: how about real-world applications? Who has benefited from them?”

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How does China’s AI stack up against ChatGPT?

How does China’s AI stack up against ChatGPT?

China’s GenAI market has become crowded with more than 200 LLMs appearing since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022. Excessive competition from Big Tech companies has resulted in a price war for commercial AI services, while global players like OpenAI and Google are locked out of the market.

Like much of the industry globally, China’s AI market is still in the early stages of monetisation. Baidu’s Li said that logistics and creative writing are two industries that have already benefited from AI-powered applications that improve efficiency.

Baidu Comate, the internet search giant’s coding assistant powered by its Ernie LLM, has been deployed internally for employee use. Li said 30 percent of coding at the company is now handled by AI.

“I think applications are the key to determining whether this era is the critical moment for AI,” said Xu Li, CEO and co-founder of Chinese AI pioneer SenseTime, on the same panel with Baidu’s Li.

“While our industry is a hot topic nowadays, it hasn’t reached its critical moment yet, because it has not yet penetrated any applications in any vertical industries that have caused widespread change,” Xu added.

MiniMax CEO Yan Junjie, who leads another one of China’s leading AI start-ups, said at the conference that he expects major industry consolidation in the future, with LLMs being primarily developed by just five companies.

The surprise overnight success of ChatGPT sparked a wave of soul searching in China and ignited a race to produce the best China-made LLMs.
In addition to a small cohort of start-ups dubbed China’s “AI tigers”, Big Tech companies have poured resources into the market. TikTok owner ByteDance, social media behemoth Tencent Holdings and e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the Post, started drastically slashing prices on LLM-based services in May in a bid to court users.

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