China has developed at least 79 large-scale artificial intelligence models with over 1 billion parameters each, a research institute said in a rare public statement, amid the worldwide buzz created by OpenAI's artificial intelligence chat bot ChatGPT.
Industry experts said the United States and China have led the global development of such models, but China still had to narrow the gap with the US in the field.
More than 14 provincial regions in China have contributed to the research and development of large-scale AI models, the groundbreaking technology behind ChatGPT.
Up to 38 are from Beijing, followed by 20 from Guangdong province, according to the latest report by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Technology.
To support the endeavor, local authorities are offering public computing power to meet the rising computing demand from large-scale AI models.
Beijing and Shanghai municipalities, as well as Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, currently have the largest number of such models, and they are also the regions that have purchased the most AI servers in the past three years, the report showed.
"The development of China's large-scale AI models is booming, with several technical routes making breakthroughs at the same time," said Zhao Zhiyun, head of the research institute, during the just-concluded Zhongguancun Forum.
The US and China have led the global development of such models and contributed to 80 percent of the large-scale AI models across the world, she said, adding that China has to narrow the gap to catch up with the US.
For instance, for China's large-scale AI models, natural language processing is still the most active field of research and development, followed by the multimodal field, she said.
"But there are few models in the fields of computer vision and intelligent speech, and there is declining cooperation between universities and research institutes with companies," she said.
"More efforts are needed to boost the overall planning and coordination of resources and accelerate basic research and technological innovation, so as to actively participate in global AI governance to further promote the orderly development of large models," Zhao added.
According to the report, half of China's large-scale AI models are open source, meaning that they are made freely available.
Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google China and CEO of Chinese investment firm Sinovation Ventures, told China Daily: "Open source should be supported but Chinese companies cannot rely too much on open source.
"It is necessary to establish their own intellectual property and technological advantages as soon as possible to form a moat, or a barrier, because the open source model cannot reach the performance of the self-developed model of foreign manufacturers. In other words, the ability of open source models will become a ceiling that limits Chinese companies."
"At the same time, the open source technologies of major overseas manufacturers have the risk of being shut down. Moreover, due to differences in culture, user habits, and laws and regulations, it is risky to bring a model trained abroad to China for fine-tuning."
Dai Qionghai, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said China has strong AI applications but lacks in innovation compared with the US. The country should also boost AI talent training, Dai added.