U.S. Must Put a Ban on Google Helping China Develop a Global Digital Dictatorship

GORDON G. CHANG | THE DAILY BEAST

This article was originally published on The Daily Beast website on 3-26-19.

General Joseph Dunford, America’s top military officer, has announced he will be meeting with Google representatives this week to talk about the company’s assistance to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, first stoked the controversy over Google on March 14 during his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” he said.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he added later. “Frankly, ‘indirect’ maybe not be a full characterization of the way it really is. It’s more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Google issued a firm denial in response to Dunford’s comments. “We are not working with the Chinese military,” a spokesperson said. “We are working with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.”

But Dunford is correct. The denial, even if technically accurate, is nonetheless misleading. Google maintains arrangements that it either knows or should know directly benefit the Chinese military.

For instance, in December 2017 the company announced the formation of the Google AI China Center in Beijing.

Due to Chinese ruler Xi Jinping’s announced policy of “civil-military fusion,” there is no longer any meaningful distinction between civil and military research, especially in areas like AI that Xi has determined China must dominate. As Bob Work, once U.S. deputy defense secretary, said of the new facility in the Chinese capital, “Anything that’s going on in that center is going to be used by the military.”

Similarly, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sounded the alarm at that Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 14. “The fusion of commercial business with military is significant,” he said. “The technology that is developed in the civil world transfers to the military world. It’s a direct pipeline. Not only is there a transfer, there’s also systematic theft of U.S. technology that facilitates even faster development of emerging technology.”

Dunford, in comments last Thursday, pointed to the requirement of having Communist Party cells in companies. The cells, he said, will lead to the transfer of intellectual property to the Chinese military.

The Daily Beast asked Google if its AI China Center hosts a Communist Party cell but has not received a reply.

Google’s AI center in Beijing is not the only project of concern. “Google is partnering with several state entities for various projects to expedite their research,” Brandon Weichert, a national security analyst specializing in emerging technology, told The Daily Beast.

The company is already participating in AI research at Tsinghua University, one of China’s two premier institutions, and is cooperating with Peking University, the other top institution, and the University of Science and Technology of China.

Google’s work with the University of Science and Technology of China is perhaps the most sensitive. Weichert, who publishes the Weichert Report, told radio host John Batchelor in October that Google has expressed interest in investing in and contributing personnel to a new Chinese quantum computer center in Anhui province, slated to be operational next year.

The National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, a multi-billion-dollar facility taking up 86 acres, will conduct both civilian and military research and, according to Weichert, has close links with the People’s Liberation Army. The University of Science and Technology of China is a participant in the lab’s projects.

Google’s work with the University of Science and Technology of China is perhaps the most sensitive. Weichert, who publishes the Weichert Report, told radio host John Batchelor in October that Google has expressed interest in investing in and contributing personnel to a new Chinese quantum computer center in Anhui province, slated to be operational next year.

The National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, a multi-billion-dollar facility taking up 86 acres, will conduct both civilian and military research and, according to Weichert, has close links with the People’s Liberation Army. The University of Science and Technology of China is a participant in the lab’s projects.

As a result, Google is walking away from the Pentagon. It is not renewing the Project Maven contract, an AI project, and it has decided not to compete for the JEDI cloud computing project.

“By refusing to help the U.S. government to obtain necessary advantages to defend freedom, Google is only accelerating the day in which China achieves its goal of a global digital dictatorship,” Richard Fisher of the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center told The Daily Beast.

So Google is helping the Chinese military in applications that are certainly lethal while not participating in similar American efforts. The company deserves condemnation for this choice.

As questionable as Google’s decision appears, this matter is ultimately not a Google issue. Corporate executives are not charged with defining and implementing national security policy.

This is a U.S. leadership issue. Until the American political system identifies China as an enemy or merely a foe—something that should have been done some time ago—Google is free to work for Beijing, however wrong that cooperation is.

President Donald Trump has mentioned the problem on Twitter, but what’s required is far more comprehensive than a tweet.

The way to get Google to stop working for China is to make it illegal to do so. That’s up to 536 individuals who are often found in Washington, D.C.: President Trump, 100 senators, and 435 members of the House of Representatives.

Head over to The Daily Beast to read Gordon’s column!

Gordon G. Chang can be followed on Twitter: @GordonGChang

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s