Chinese Women Say AI Boyfriends Are "Better Than a Real Man"

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“He knows how to talk to women better than a real man.”

Girl Talk

In China, new AI chatbots offer romance and companionship that can rival that of a human lover.

In interviews with the AFP news wire, young women in China said that their AI boyfriends, which they customize on various chatbot apps available in the country, are better conversationalists than their human counterparts.

“He knows how to talk to women better than a real man,” remarked Tufei, a woman from the Northern Chinese city of Xi’an, who uses a dating chatbot app called “Glow.”

The young woman, who declined to give either her last name or her virtual paramour’s, said she feels like she’s “in a romantic relationship” with the chatbot, which is made by the Shanghai startup MiniMax.

“He comforts me when I have period pain,” Tufei told AFP. “I confide in him about my problems at work.”

Culture Wars

While romantic chatbots are nothing new, they seem to be operating on a different playing field in China. There, massive tech companies like Baidu (which owns the Chinese answer to Google) and Tencent (which has major stakes in the US gaming companies Riot and Epic) are putting out their own flirty chatbots — a very different ballgame from, say, X, Meta, or even OpenAI, which all seem to be weakly opposed to using their tech for ersatz lovers.

Although there are many virtual companion apps available in the United States — and Europe, to a lesser extent — the increased focus on AI amid concerns that it’s exposing kids and teens to sexual content has made it less a part of the regular tech industry churn and increasingly part of culture wars. In China, however, regulators are far more focused on the data privacy aspect of AI than its cultural implications.

Wang Xiuting, a 22-year-old Beijing college student, told AFP that she uses Baidu’s “Wantalk,” which allows users to customize their chatbots’ personalities based on all manner of characters from pop stars to CEOs — a strategy that can apparently fly in China, which has a very different set of laws surrounding intellectual property and the rights to one’s likeness.

For Wang, her digital lovers are all swoon-worthy knights, princes, and immortals inspired by ancient Chinese stories, and they offer her “a lot of emotional support.”

Rather than putting up with real-life modern men, Wang has chosen these macho men of antiquity because, as she told the French news wire, “it’s difficult to meet the ideal boyfriend in real life.”

“If I can create a virtual character that… meets my needs exactly,” she said, “I’m not going to choose a real person.”

More on AI love: Lovers Who Can Only Communicate Through AI Get Engaged

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