The bearable mediocrity of Baidu’s ChatGPT competitor Ernie Bot

3. President Xi Jinping traveled to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin this week. The economic relationship between the two countries has weakened in recent years. (Wall Street Journal $)

4. A year after the China Eastern Airlines crash that killed 132 people, the Chinese government still doesn’t have a conclusion about what went wrong. (Associated Press)

5. Jiang Yanyong, the Chinese doctor who exposed the cover-up of the SARS outbreak in 2003, died at the age of 91. (NPR)

6. Someone keeps cutting the undersea cables connecting the Taiwanese archipelago to the internet. Taiwanese authorities blame accidental damage from Chinese ships. (Vice)

7. Guo Wengui, a controversial Chinese billionaire with close ties to Steve Bannon, was arrested in New York on Wednesday for a $1 billion fraud scheme. (NBC News)

  • “The New Federal State of China,” an entity Guo and Bannon launched in 2020, greatly exaggerated its role in helping to rescue Ukrainian refugees in 2022 and used it for political promotion. (Mother Jones)

Lost in translation

During the first two years of the pandemic, Chinese insurance companies popularized “covid insurance”—people can pay a one-time premium of a few bucks and get thousands of dollars back if they catch covid. But as journalist Yu Meng wrote in the Chinese publication Connecting, it can be extremely hard to get that payout.

Yu bought covid insurance at the beginning of 2022 and tested positive on an at-home antigen test in December, during a national wave of infections after China loosened its pandemic control measures. The insurance company gave her a number to call, but no one answered. Yu reports there are at least 60,000 more people who filed a claim with the same company. Some called dozens of times a day, and some sued the company. Some filed complaints with China’s insurance regulator. But very few people actually got paid in the end.

At one point when she finally managed to reach the company, a customer representative told Yu: “Do you know how many claims we have? You think the people above me haven’t calculated the costs? Of course, they did. It can reach billions and will cause the company to go bankrupt. Do you think the state will allow a state-owned company to go bankrupt? Can you imagine that?” In the end, Yu, who had expected to get 20,000 RMB ($2,900), accepted 5000 RMB. Her parents, who bought the same insurance, gave up on getting any money back.

One more thing

Even kids can’t escape the AI ​​craze now. Recently, the local government in China’s eastern province Zhejiang announced it would incorporate more artificial-intelligence education into the grade school and middle school curricula. How intense the lesson will be is still unclear, but I’m wondering: will we come full circle and see Chinese kids using Ernie Bot to do their homework on Ernie Bot?