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A China Central Television news broadcast shows footage of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not seen), on a giant screen outside a shopping mall in Beijing. Image Credit: AFP

Hong Kong: Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the global rise of artificial intelligence with Bill Gates on Friday and said he welcomed US firms including Microsoft bringing their AI tech to China, two sources familiar with the talks said.

Xi also discussed Microsoft’s business development in China during their meeting in Beijing, one of the sources said.

Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, stepped down from the company’s board in 2020 to focus on philanthropic works related to global health, education and climate change.

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Xi has previously said China needs to seize opportunities to use AI to drive economic development, but has also cautioned about its risks, with the country weighing up a new law on the technology as well as rules for generative AI.

Microsoft is a backer of OpenAI, whose chatbot ChatGPT ignited a global AI buzz last year that has spread to China.

OpenAI and ChatGPT itself are not blocked by Chinese authorities, but OpenAI does not allow users in some countries, including mainland China and Hong Kong, to sign on.

Microsoft has been in China for more than 30 years and has a large research centre there. Its Bing portal is the only foreign search engine accessible from within China’s so-called Great Firewall, although its search results on sensitive topics are censored.