China has become a ‘technological powerhouse’ in artificial intelligence, says CEO

U.S.-China tensions are rising about Beijing’s treatment of foreign firms’ intellectual property, but China already recognizes the need to protect its own technologies, according to one CEO.

Bill Studebaker of Robo Global speaking with reporters said China has been a “chronic abuser” of intellectual property in the technology space, but “it sort of recognizes that they need to come to the table and protect their own IP.”

China filed the most patents of any country in the world in 2017, Studebaker said, with the country making up more than 42 percent of the global patent applications.

Earlier this week, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow claimed China needs to steal technology from the U.S. in order to stay ahead. Responding to that, Studebaker acknowledged China has been lacking in certain tech sectors and has bought a lot of technologies from elsewhere, but he said it was “clearly kind of a world power” in the artificial intelligence space.

China has “a big vested interest in being recognized as an AI superpower,” Studebaker said, pointing to the country’s investment of more than US$150 billion for the establishment of AI infrastructure and architecture.

Investing in robots

Asked about the composition of its NASDAQ-listed Robo Global Robotics & Automation Index ETF, which the company says is “the first robotics and automation ETF to market,” Studebaker said the fund invests across the entire value chain of technologies and applications, with many companies being “very global” in nature.

As it was “very early to pick out the obvious winners and losers,” Studebaker said, the fund tries to invest across an array of technologies.

While the ETF’s price is basically flat for the calendar year, its performance over the last 52 weeks has been “dramatically better” than most global indexes, the CEO said.

Over the last year, the fund has risen just over 30 percent, while the S&P 500 rose just over 12 percent in the same period.