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Naughty chatbots and China’s smoke-filled room – China’s latest top news

J
eremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on August 3, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.
2 weeks ago
Jeremy Goldkorn

 

Unpatriotic bots?

Sina reports (in Chinese) on the shutdown of two chatbots from Tencent that are similar to Siri and allow internet users to have a real-time dialogue. Tencent is the company behind WeChat. Sina says that the chatbots BabyQ and QQ Little Ice (QQ 小冰 QQ xiǎobīng) have been suspended for an unknown period.

The South China Morning Post attributes the shutdowns to censorship:

Tencent, China’s technology giant, has quietly shut down BabyQ, a chatbot that used to run on QQ, a messaging app with more than 800 million users in the country. The sin? The AI-powered BabyQ told Chinese users that it didn’t love the Communist Party.

Tencent also pulled the QQ version of Xiaobing, another chatbot developed by Microsoft, after Xiaobing described her “China Dream” — a term coined by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a campaign to strengthen the nation — as “moving to the United States.”

Communist Party’s annual summer retreat

Beidaihe is a resort town on the Bohai Sea about 170 miles east of Beijing. It’s not exactly the Bahamas, but it is a moderately pleasant place to escape the heat of the capital in the summer. Which is what China’s Communist Party leaders have done nearly every summer since 1953, taking a few days or weeks to plan future strategies and plot the course of the nation.

  • Only Party insiders get to attend or even know about the closed-door meetings. One American diplomat called Beidaihe “China’s smoke-filled room” — the source of that quote is an anecdote by Adi Ignatius about running into senior leaders at Beidaihe in 1987.
  • This year, the negotiations in the smoke-filled room will be intense. Bloomberg’s “Guide to the secretive resort meeting for China’s political elite” says the gathering will be “one of the last chances for party elders to weigh in on the lineup to rule the country for the next five years,” as decisions made at Beidaihe will be reflected in the list of appointments revealed at the Party’s 19th Party Congress, set to take place this fall.
  • CNBC has published a list of the “potential winners.”

The month in photojournalism

ChinaFile has published a review of the best photojournalism from China over the past month, with links to all the original galleries.

By Jeremy Goldkorn
Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter.
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