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‘We are at war with China’ over cyber technology, says Tom Siebel

Investors’ eyes are pinned on the trade war between the United States and China. But according to billionaire CEO of artificial intelligence company C3.ai Tom Siebel, investors’ focus is in the entirely wrong place. He says they should be looking at AI.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we are at war with China, and one of the fronts is cyber war,” said Siebel In an interview with Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round. “[Russia President] Vladimir Putin said in 2017, whoever wins the war in AI dominates the world. I think that’s true. And it won’t be Russia. It’s either going to be China or the United States.”

Siebel said in artificial intelligence, the United States is lagging behind China, as the latter continues to invest enormous sums of money into development.

A war between ‘underlying philosophies’

Siebel says the budding cyberwar between the U.S. and China is a test of the countries’ philosophies of totalitarian control of the economy and a free market.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping before starting their bilateral meeting during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The countries’ conflict appeared recently in the United States’ ban on Huawei Technologies.

“Huawei is a problem,” says Siebel. “The idea that they’re going to be at the heart of all of the transmission of voice and data around the world...this is a critical issue.”

During the G20 talks between China and the United States, Huawei was used as a bargaining chip: while the company remains on the Commerce Department’s ‘entity list’ due to suspicions that it poses a national security risk, President Trump alleviated some pressure on the technology behemoth, agreeing to grant certain exemptions to the ban in exchange for renewing amicable trade talks between himself and China President Xi Jinping.

Earlier Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expanded upon the President’s promise of exemptions, saying the U.S. would grant licenses to U.S. companies that want to sell technology to Huawei, so long as those sales do not pose an imminent national security risk.

While the ban’s strength wavers, Siebel is firm in his argument that the cyber war brewing between the two nations is “not a battle we want to lose.”

“[China is] engaged in massive, state-sanctioned intellectual property theft. And Huawei is very much a part of that,” says Siebel. “If you don’t think they’re stealing this information, I don’t think you’re awake.”

Olivia Balsamo is a writer and producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @BalsamoOlivia.

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