Chinese AI Giants Make Controversial Push into Middle East with High-Profile Deals

Chinese AI Giants Make Controversial Push into Middle East with High-Profile Deals

Sofia Delgado-Cheng
3 min read

Chinese AI Giants Make Controversial Push into Middle East with High-Profile Deals and Political Maneuvers

In an unprecedented move, three of China's leading large language model (LLM) companies—Yi, Baichuan, and Zhipu—have set their sights on the burgeoning Middle East AI market. This strategic expansion involves securing substantial deals to develop customized LLMs tailored to local languages and needs. The push into this market is marked by high-profile engagements, including meetings with political leaders and stakeholders.

The AI expert and investor, Lee Kaifu, who is deeply linked to the Chinese government has been at the forefront of this initiative, engaging in discussions with Middle Eastern dignitaries. His company, Lingyi Wanwu (01 AI), along with Baichuan and Zhipu, have been actively establishing their presence.

Key Takeaways

  • Strategic Expansion: Chinese LLM companies Yi, Baichuan, and Zhipu are aggressively entering the Middle Eastern market, focusing on developing AI solutions in local languages.
  • High-Profile Engagements: Industry leader Lee Kaifu is playing a significant role, facilitating large deals and forging relationships with key regional figures.
  • Diverse Applications: Baichuan, known for its healthcare AI solutions, is adapting its expertise to meet the needs of the Middle Eastern market, possibly leveraging its technology for affluent clients.
  • Investment and Innovation: Zhipu has not only secured investment from the region but is also exploring both B2B and B2C services, highlighting the diverse opportunities in the Middle East.


The Middle Eastern market presents a unique opportunity for Chinese AI firms. The region's significant investment in technology and infrastructure aligns with the capabilities of advanced LLMs, which can support various sectors, from healthcare to smart cities.

Lee Kaifu's involvement underscores the strategic importance of this expansion. His ability to secure large-scale deals showcases the competitive edge that Chinese companies hold in the AI domain. These deals are not just about technology but also about cultural and linguistic adaptation, making the AI solutions more relevant and effective for local users.

Baichuan's pivot from healthcare to a broader AI application in the Middle East suggests a strategic diversification aimed at capitalizing on the region's wealth and demand for cutting-edge technology. The company's reputation for high-end AI solutions can cater to the affluent Middle Eastern clientele, who prioritize innovative and life-enhancing technologies.

Zhipu's dual focus on B2B and B2C markets highlights the versatility of Chinese AI capabilities. By offering tailored solutions to businesses and direct products to consumers, Zhipu is positioning itself to tap into various revenue streams. This approach not only broadens its market base but also reinforces its presence as a comprehensive AI provider in the region.

Despite the promising outlook, critics argue that the success of Chinese AI companies in the Middle East is not purely based on innovation and strategic vision. It has been suggested by Eric Schmidt, the ex-CEO of Google, that these companies have fine-tuned US open-source models, such as Meta's LLaMA, to gain a competitive advantage. This is due to the current GPU exportation sanctions on China.

Furthermore, critics point out that the deals and expansions are heavily influenced by political maneuvers and image-building efforts, particularly by influential figures like Lee Kaifu. His extensive network and deep connections to the Chinese government have undeniably played a role in securing lucrative contracts, raising questions about the sustainability and authenticity of these market gains.

Recent revelations highlight Lee Kaifu's deep involvement with the Chinese government, especially in the context of AI development and international cooperation on AI safety. Lee participated in the International Dialogue on AI Safety (IDAIS) in Beijing, where he and other senior Chinese officials discussed AI safety and regulatory measures with global AI scientists. This event emphasized the need for international collaboration to mitigate AI risks, showing Lee's alignment with governmental AI initiatives in China.

Did You Know?

  • Baichuan's entry into the Middle Eastern market, traditionally focused on healthcare, indicates a strategic move to leverage the region's demand for premium technology solutions.
  • Zhipu's plan to launch a B2C product in the Middle East demonstrates confidence in the consumer market's potential, reflecting a broader trend of digital transformation in the region.
  • Critics claim that Chinese AI firms have leveraged US open-source models, such as Meta's LLaMA, and engaged in strategic leaderboard manipulation to boost their market standing.

You May Also Like

This article is submitted by our user under the News Submission Rules and Guidelines. The cover photo is computer generated art for illustrative purposes only; not indicative of factual content. If you believe this article infringes upon copyright rights, please do not hesitate to report it by sending an email to us. Your vigilance and cooperation are invaluable in helping us maintain a respectful and legally compliant community.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get the latest in enterprise business and tech with exclusive peeks at our new offerings