Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Jan. 13 warned Silicon Valley leaders of the dangers of working with the Chinese communist regime, imploring them not to let U.S. technology “power a truly Orwellian surveillance state.”
Advanced TechPompeo’s remarks come amid growing concerns about the Chinese regime’s use of advanced technology for domestic surveillance and control, including through a sprawling network of CCTV cameras—with roughly one camera for every four people—many of which are equipped with facial-recognition technology.
U.S. lawmakers and experts have also recently drawn attention to the role U.S. tech companies have played in building China’s surveillance capabilities.
An Uyghur human rights bill passed by the House of Representatives in December 2019 includes export controls of U.S. technology that aids state-sponsored surveillance in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in “re-education” camps. A Senate version of the bill was passed in September 2019, and lawmakers are currently working on a compromise bill to pass and send to the president.
On Jan. 2, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse criticized Google for putting profits over human rights, citing its work with the Chinese regime, which included the “Dragonfly” project, a since-scrapped censored search engine for China, and its artificial intelligence (AI) center in Beijing.
In his speech, Pompeo cited 2019 Senate testimony from a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, who said, “The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military.”
The Chinese regime has prioritized a military development strategy known as “military-civil fusion,” Pompeo said, referring to its effort of leveraging private industry and university research to advance its military.
“Under Chinese law, Chinese companies and researchers must—I repeat, must—under penalty of law share technology with the Chinese military,” he said.
Chinese Tech TheftThe state secretary also highlighted the regime’s “rampant theft of intellectual property,” which not only harms individual victim companies, but also jeopardizes U.S. innovation, he said.
He said U.S. business leaders have privately shared with him their concerns of being targeted by Chinese economic espionage: “fears of getting hacked; fears of a Chinese state-backed company undercutting your margins; fears that a Chinese company will steal your idea, manufacture it in China, and then sue you out of business for patent infringement.”
The FBI currently has about 1,000 open intellectual property (IP) cases, “nearly all of them somehow connected to China,” Pompeo added.
At the same, the U.S. administration has tightened regulations due to Chinese companies that pose security risks.
In 2019, the United States barred Chinese tech giant Huawei from doing business with U.S. companies due to similar security concerns.