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Alibaba’s AI Evolution: The Public Release of Tongyi Qianwen

BusinessTechnologyAlibaba's AI Evolution: The Public Release of Tongyi Qianwen


In the fast-paced world of artificial intelligence, Alibaba Group is making significant strides by enhancing its focus on AI technologies. The company’s recent announcement concerning the release of its large language model, Tongyi Qianwen, epitomizes its commitment to making AI central to its operations. The move aligns with the shift in global technological paradigms, which places AI at the forefront of innovation.

Alibaba’s AI Vision

Alibaba Group’s new CEO, Eddie Wu Yongming, in a recent internal communication, emphasized that AI will be one of the company’s twin strategic pillars moving forward. This highlights Alibaba’s intent to embed AI across its ecosystem, ensuring that the group remains at the cutting edge of global technological advancements.

Yongming’s words resonate with the broader sentiment in the tech industry, “Over the next decade, the most significant change agent will be the disruptions brought about by AI across all sectors.” Indeed, the transformative power of AI has already been evident in numerous industries, and companies that fail to adapt risk obsolescence.

Tongyi Qianwen: Alibaba’s Flagship LLM

Alibaba Group Holding’s cloud computing arm recently announced that it has opened its advanced Large Language Model (LLM), Tongyi Qianwen, for public use. This move closely follows similar decisions by other local tech companies that were given the nod by the Chinese government to introduce their versions of LLMs resembling ChatGPT.

This isn’t merely a commercial release; it’s a statement. Alibaba Group Intelligence Group, in a WeChat article, revealed its overarching mission behind this move: democratizing access to sophisticated AI. Their objective is to “let every ordinary person and enterprise benefit from LLMs”, the technology that serves as the backbone for advanced AI chatbots akin to OpenAI’s renowned ChatGPT.

The Journey of Tongyi Qianwen

The inception of Tongyi Qianwen began with a beta test launched in April. From its nascent stages, Alibaba Cloud has been proactive in collaborating, not only with internal units of Alibaba such as the e-commerce behemoth Taobao and the corporate communication tool DingTalk but also with external corporate entities. One notable collaboration was with the smartphone manufacturer, Oppo. The collaborations were two-pronged: training customized LLMs and crafting applications founded on the capabilities of Tongyi Qianwen.

China’s Stance on AI Chat Services

The Chinese government’s previous reservations about AI chat services were evident in the stringent controls it had in place. However, the decision in late August signaled a new era. The government eased its restrictions, paving the way for several generative AI services to debut in the public domain. This was a bold move, especially in a market where heavyweights like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have yet to receive official permissions. This shift in policy came shortly after national regulations were established, setting the stage for a regulated yet progressive AI ecosystem.

Several players seized this opportunity. Baidu, the internet search colossus, unveiled its Ernie Bot. AI experts, SenseTime, showcased their offering, while Sogou founder Wang Xiaochuan introduced his new venture, Baichuan. Other notable mentions include state-backed startup Zhipu AI. Not to be left behind, Tencent Holdings, a mammoth in social media and gaming, introduced its AI foundational model, Hunyuan.

Strategic Restructuring and Personnel Movements at Alibaba

Alibaba’s AI aspirations coincide with significant organizational changes. A prominent announcement is the anticipated spin-off of Alibaba Cloud into an autonomous, publicly-listed entity in the upcoming year. This forms a part of the extensive restructuring strategy of the parent company.

There have also been significant movements on the personnel front. Wang Jian, credited as the visionary behind Alibaba Cloud and often hailed for setting the technological trajectory for Alibaba’s ascension as an e-commerce titan, rejoined as a full-time member in May. Parallelly, Zhou Jingren, previously the deputy head of Alibaba’s research powerhouse, Damo Academy, took up the mantle as the chief technology officer at Alibaba Cloud. This occurred simultaneously when Zhang became the interim president of the division.


In this era of digital renaissance, artificial intelligence stands tall as a beacon of innovation, transformation, and limitless possibilities. Alibaba’s decision to foreground AI in its strategic roadmap, underscored by the release of Tongyi Qianwen, reflects its vision to not only remain relevant but to lead in this dynamic landscape. As AI continues to shape our future, Alibaba’s endeavors signal an exciting chapter in the fusion of commerce, technology, and daily life.

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