China's AI model glut is a 'significant waste of resources' due to scarce real-world applications for 100+ LLMs says Baidu CEO

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Robin Li Yanhong, the founder and CEO of Baidu, the biggest search engine in China, said that the country has too many large language models and too few practical applications. Yanhong made this announcement during a recent panel discussion at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) held in Shanghai, as covered by the South China Morning Post.

"In 2023, intense competition among over 100 LLMs has emerged in China, resulting in a significant waste of resources, particularly computing power," said Li. "I've noticed that many people still primarily focus on foundational models. But I want to ask: How about real-world applications? Who has benefitted from them?"

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reported last Friday that China has outpaced the U.S. in AI patents six-to-one in the past ten years. However, WIPO data also showed that the country is falling behind in terms of citations, with the China Academy of Sciences the only one from China in the list of top 20 organizations with the most research citations.

Publicly available LLMs in China need to go through regulatory approval in China, to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can effectively control the Chinese people. Over 200 AI firms have applied for a license as of March 2024, with 117 getting a nod from Beijing. Having this many LLMs means that they're all fighting for a slice of the pie, and not everyone will win. Yan Junjjie, CEO of AI startup MiniMax, said that he "expects major industry consolidation in the future, with LLMs being primarily developed by just five companies."

Many large firms have started to rush in to capture the market that OpenAI will leave when its API is no longer accessible in China, from July 9. The largest tech companies — Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba — have started offering discounts and plans to entice customers to take their products, something that smaller companies might not be able to sustain. 

While competition is good for any market, too many options could also lead to decision fatigue for customers, who are simply overwhelmed by the number of services priced at similar levels. Bigger companies would likely be the winner here, as they have larger war chests that they can use to either acquire smaller competitors or run them into the ground. As Bernard Leong, CEO of Singapore-based Dorje AI said, "There's probably going to be a bloodbath of the large language models and I suspect that there's probably going to be very few players left."

Jowi Morales
Contributing Writer

Jowi Morales is a tech enthusiast with years of experience working in the industry. He’s been writing with several tech publications since 2021, where he’s been interested in tech hardware and consumer electronics.

  • MacZ24
    Publicly available LLMs in China need to go through regulatory approval in China, to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can effectively control the Chinese people.

    When we do it, it's regulation and making sure that LLMs don't output stuff we don't like. When the chinese do it, it's obviously for nefarious authoritarian purposes.

    Even western propaganda must admit that chinese people are more satisfied with their governement than the people in the west of theirs.

    Democracy Perception Index
    As I said already, if you think that the west is escalading sanctions & tariffs because somehow the chinese products and R&D are inferior, you don't want to understand, really.

    It's because the west can't compete.

    It's pretty obvious, except for the hooligan-level nationalists.

    So now, because in the west we value so much freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas, and are not complete hypocrites, fire away the censorship or the shadow banning. :ROFLMAO:
  • watzupken
    I feel this is not just a problem in China. The problem is that companies have not figured out how to capitalize on AI, and due to FOMO, rushed out to grab whatever AI hardware just to show how impressive they are. ChatGPT is useful for example, but how many people will use the paid version of it? I think the number is not going to be high, relative to the sunk cost and overhead.
  • williamcll
    Not wrong, most AI models out there are a waste of resources anyway to be abused by grifters.
  • dk382
    Not gonna pretend that the chinese government is totally innocent, but the assertion that them having an approval process for AI models is so they can "control the Chinese population" is such a wild thing to see in an otherwise neutral news article, especially since it's not backed up with any evidence or supporting arguments within the article—it feels like a complete non-sequitur. Doubly so because this is a site that has posted multiple op-eds calling for stricter regulation of AI in the west. But when China does it, it's presented as a fact that it's for authoritarian control reasons? C'mon on, man. That kind of statement has no place in a neutral news article. The author should consider submitting an op-ed about it instead, and the EIC should stress to their newswriters that they shouldn't be inserting their personal political opinions into news stories as fact.
  • mitch074
    I'll make a slightly off-topic diatribe, following the out of place, strongly opinionated remark in the article that should be in an editorial and not in a factual article.

    Note that the perceived democracy is not equal to actual democracy - thus why France is in the red in that report, when it is an actual democracy where China isn't (and the US, not exactly).
    However, while the central government in Beijing isn't elected democratically (far from it), actual local administrators often are named by consensus - and THEY are the people that are perceived as impacting people's day to day life. So, while the PCC has an iron grip on people's lives, their representatives have quite a lot of power while remaining somewhat close to the people.
    In France, it's the opposite and it's getting worse : the government is elected democratically, but they are perceived (and prove themselves daily) as being completely disconnected from the country, especially outside Paris - thus, a perception that political leaders are completely unconcerned by the people they're supposed to administer.

    In the article, a quick shortcut is taken to indicate a model has to be PCC approved to be used so as to control the population - mainly, that the model won't say anything bad about the PCC. Well, the exact same thing can be said about censoring models in the West, they're all based on US "decency" standards - when those don't apply to the rest of the world (e.g., kicking a picture out because there's a NIPPLE on it?! Come ON !!!)

    Two weights, two measures. Who's to say which one is right ?
  • NinoPino
    A similar titled article was posted on Fortune in November 2023, maybe Baidu CEO have some problems ?
    "Building AI models is an ‘enormous waste of social resources,’ says Baidu CEO one month after his company released its latest AI model" :
    I suppose the name of MiniMax CEO, Yan Junjjie, was misspelled, it should be Junjie.
  • NinoPino
    A way better version of this can be found on Yahoo Finance :