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Why the Chinese Government is Exempting AI from Stringent Regulations

Understanding China's regulatory approach towards its tech industry often appears enigmatic, characterized by fluctuations between support and scrutiny. Angela Huyue Zhang, a law professor at Hong Kong University and author of "High Wire: How China Regulates Big Tech and Governs Its Economy," sheds light on this dynamic in her recent work.

Zhang outlines a three-phase pattern in China's tech regulation strategy: an initial period of leniency fostering industry growth, followed by abrupt crackdowns targeting antitrust violations, and eventually, a relaxation of restrictions. This pattern is exemplified in the case of Alibaba and Tencent, which faced substantial fines for past mergers and acquisitions after years of expansive growth.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Zhang delves deeper into the symbiotic relationship between tech companies and the Chinese government. While high-profile crackdowns often dominate headlines, Zhang emphasizes the supportive role of regulators in nurturing these firms, citing local courts' involvement in resolving online disputes in favor of tech companies.

The burgeoning field of artificial intelligence (AI) presents a unique case where government and corporate interests converge. As China prioritizes technological advancement, AI emerges as a cornerstone of its economic revitalization efforts. President Xi Jinping's endorsement of AI initiatives underscores its strategic importance in driving future growth.

Despite China's swift response to AI regulation, Zhang argues that existing measures primarily focus on content control rather than safeguarding against potential harm, raising concerns about human rights implications. However, Zhang believes that China's pro-growth stance prevails in AI regulation, with regulatory bodies prioritizing innovation over stringent oversight.

Looking ahead, Zhang suggests that a significant AI misuse leading to social instability could trigger a shift towards stricter regulations. Until then, China's tech regulatory landscape is poised to maintain its supportive stance towards industry growth, particularly in the AI sector.

By offering a nuanced perspective on China's tech regulation dynamics, Zhang's insights provide valuable context for navigating the evolving landscape of one of the world's most influential tech ecosystems.


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