Chinese technology giants, such as Alibaba and Tencent, have thrown their support behind Zhipu, an artificial intelligence startup that China hopes will serve as a counterpart to the American company OpenAI. Zhipu has announced raising over 2.5 billion Chinese yuan ($341 million) this year, with prominent venture backers like Sequoia and Hillhouse, as well as corporate investors like Xiaomi, Alibaba, and Tencent.
Zhipu stands out as one of China’s promising startups focused on developing AI models trained on vast datasets to power a range of applications. In August, they unveiled a generative AI chatbot based on their cutting-edge models, which excels at providing responses to user queries.
OpenAI, on the other hand, is the U.S. entity behind ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that significantly popularized this technology. The disclosure of Zhipu’s investors coincides with the ongoing technological rivalry between the United States and China, with artificial intelligence at the forefront.
China views AI as a critical technology for boosting economic growth, committing to increasing its computing power by 50% by 2025 to advance AI applications. Conversely, the United States has been taking measures to restrict China’s access to vital technologies required for AI model development. Last year, it imposed restrictions on Nvidia’s sale of high-end A100 and H100 graphics processing units to China, and recently expanded these rules to cover additional Nvidia chips. Nvidia, a leading graphics processing unit manufacturer, plays a pivotal role in training data-intensive AI models.
Zhipu is just one of many Chinese startups working to foster the growth of the country’s AI industry, with substantial support from China’s tech giants. For instance, Baichuan, another AI startup, recently announced securing approximately $300 million in funding from investors, including Alibaba and Tencent. Additionally, major players like Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu are actively engaged in developing their AI models and launching products built on this technology.