Chinese food delivery giant Meituan’s co-founder and CEO Wang Xing, who has been largely absent from social media in recent years, broke his silence on Wednesday to support an artificial intelligence (AI) venture founded by a close aide, joining the ChatGPT frenzy in China. In a WeChat post, visible to his friends and confirmed by the South China Morning Post, the 44-year-old entrepreneur said he was thrilled by the potential productivity of large language models (LLM) and curious about their impact on the world. He said he would also be investing in the A-series round of fundraising by Guangnian Zhiwai, a start-up launched by Wang Huiwen, one of his closest aides and a co-founder at Meituan, and take a seat on its board. ChatGPT-like AI is ‘difficult to achieve’, China’s tech minister says This makes the Beijing-based tech billionaire one of the highest-profile Chinese tech executives – other than Baidu’s CEO Robin Li – to make public their plans or intentions to join the Chinese tech industry’s search for a local rival to ChatGPT, the AI conversational bot launched in November by Microsoft-backed OpenAI. Elsewhere, Wang Xiaochuang, founder of China’s No 2 search engine Sogou, told local media in February that he was “fast-tracking preparation” for his own ChatGPT-like services. The Meituan CEO said that he “has to support” his former colleague’s start-up but did not disclose the intended investment amount. Meituan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. A screenshot of Wang’s WeChat post was shared widely on Chinese social media platforms and Twitter on Wednesday evening, marking Wang’s emergence from social media silence since he posted a 1,000-year-old poem in May 2021 about the burning of books by China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang. The Tang dynasty poem post was interpreted by many people as an indirect expression of Wang’s discontent with an antitrust probe into his company. Meituan’s stock price plunged at the time and Wang was forced into another post to explain that his communication had no political implications. Wang later closed off nearly 18,000 of his historical social media posts from public view, weeks before Meituan was slapped with a 3.44 billion yuan (US$533 million) fine by the government for monopolistic behaviour in 2021. It’s Fight Night for China’s Big Tech firms as price wars loom Wang Huiwen, who was Wang Xing’s roommate at Tsinghua University in their college days, announced his “retirement” at the end of 2020, after 10 years’ service at Meituan, and largely withdrew from public life. He emerged again last month – amid growing excitement over ChatGPT – after announcing a US$50 million investment in AI and calling for potential partners. Wang Huiwen has been open about his relative lack of AI expertise. “I don’t know much about AI currently, but I’m working hard to learn more,” he wrote in a February online post aimed at recruiting talent for the company. He said he wanted to hire “recognised world-leading R&D talent, who fervently believe that AI will change the world but will make sure the technology will benefit humanity”. Guangnian Zhiwai has raised US$280 million as of February 18, according to start-up database PitchBook.