Silicon Valley executives who invest in China risk giving Beijing technology that will “undermine the very freedom” of the United States, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“This is a real problem, given that many of our most innovative companies have formed partnerships with the Chinese government and companies that are linked to it,” Pompeo said on Monday evening.
Pompeo, who has made the threat posed by Chinese technology a central theme of his international diplomacy over the last year, took that message to California to help close a widening rift between U.S. technology giants and the government. Those tensions have assumed greater importance as officials see advanced technology as a critical battleground in a global competition with China.
“Even if the Chinese Communist Party gives assurances about your technology being confined to peaceful uses, you should know there is enormous risk, risk to America’s national security as well,” Pompeo told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
Google has received special criticism from lawmakers and officials in recent years, as the company has scrapped innovative projects with the Pentagon while launching an Artificial Intelligence Center in Shanghai. Such investments stoke the fears of China hawks, who worry that U.S. companies will unwittingly give Chinese authorities the tools to perfect an unprecedented high-tech surveillance state that can be deployed for both domestic repression and foreign espionage.
“I know your job is to make money for your shareholders,” Pompeo said. “But I also want to remind each of you as Americans, as citizens of a free nation, that it is increasingly at risk from Chinese actions that may undermine the very freedom that you have to build your business and create. This is not to be alarmist. It’s not to be threatening. It is for all of us to be aware of.”