- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2020

America’s technology giants came under fire from House Republicans last week, accused of working with China and in the case of Google, indirectly helping the Chinese military improve targeting for a new stealth fighter jet.

Executives from Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook told a House hearing they had not personally seen large-scale Chinese theft of American technology at their companies, but they still faced tough questioning from House Republicans at a congressional hearing Wednesday on the tech giants’ market dominance and ties to Beijing.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, head of Google, revealed at the hearing that his company is doing work with Chinese partners on artificial intelligence — a key technology for China’s warplanes, autonomous weapons and other advanced military capabilities, such as cyber warfare.

But Mr. Pichai denied Google is helping China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.

Asked about comments last year by then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford that Google’s technology work in China was indirectly assisting the PLA, Mr. Pichai said Google is “not working with the Chinese military.”

“It’s absolutely false,” he said. “I had a chance to meet with Gen. Dunford personally. We have clarified what we do in China compared to our peers. It’s very, very limited in nature.”

Google also faced heat for what critics said was the help it gave China developing a censorship tool to police search engines. The program, “Dragonfly,” would help China further control online information under its communist system.

Mr. Pichai said Google’s artificial intelligence in China is “limited to a handful of people working on open-source projects.” He did not elaborate.

Google also came under fire over its backing out of a $10 billion Pentagon artificial intelligence program — while agreeing to help the Chinese AI program.

Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican, pressed Mr. Pichai on what he called Google’s “disturbing” withdrawal from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, the AI program.

“Google’s stated reason for removing itself from the bidding process is that the U.S. military’s project did not align with Google’s corporate values and principles,” Mr. Buck said. “It made me wonder what values Google and Communist Red China had in common.”

“I asked myself, Is it that the Chinese Communist Party imprisons Uighur Muslims in concentration camp? Could it be that China forces slaves to work in sweatshops? Maybe they align on the design to suppress free speech in Hong Kong. Did Google agree with CCP’s decision to lie to the world about the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Gen. Dunford told a March 2019 Senate hearing that the Pentagon is watching “with great concern when [U.S.] industry partners work in China,” calling it “a direct benefit to the Chinese military,” he added.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said Google was aiding the Chinese military by making the PLA’s J-20 fighter more effective in its targeting, noting that China’s Academy of Sciences has praised a Google-linked AI center in China for work on the J-20.

He said Mr. Pichai’s denials were misleading because Google worked with many Chinese entities that collaborate with the military, including Tsinghua University where Google’s director of AI Jeff Dean, worked on the university’s computer science advisory committee.

Tsinghua University also received nearly $15 million annually from the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, he noted.

Mr. Pichai said his company recently signed a major cybersecurity contract with the Pentagon and also has projects with the Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs. Google, he insisted, has a “very limited presence” inside China and its search engine, maps, Gmail and YouTube are not available there.

At one point during the five-hour House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, the four executives were asked if they were aware China has stolen U.S. technology.

Mr. Pichai testified that he had no firsthand knowledge, but then later amended his answer to note China’s hacking of Google software in 2009. Google pulled out of China in 2009 and moved to Hong Kong after the cyberattacks.

A U.S. intelligence official revealed in May 2016 that Chinese hackers had obtained details of Google search engine software and as a result were able to control search results.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he too was unaware of “specific cases where we have been stolen from by the government.” Federal agents in December and January arrested three Chinese-born former Apple employees who are accused of stealing trade secrets from the company on self-driving cars and other projects.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the hearing that “it’s well-documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he has “heard many reports of that,” but “I haven’t seen it personally” at Amazon.

Asked about counterfeit goods from China, Mr. Bezos said: “Well, certainly there are knockoff products, if that’s what you mean, and there are counterfeit products and all that. But if the answer is the Chinese government stealing technology, that’s the thing I’ve read reports of but don’t have personal experience with.”

Of the four companies at the hearing, Facebook clearly identified itself as “American.” The other three acknowledged being American firms but did not elaborate.

Mr. Zuckerberg noted that China is building its own version of the internet focused on its system of “very different ideas” that is being exported around the world.

“As Congress and other stakeholders consider how antitrust laws support competition in the U.S., I believe it’s important to maintain the core values of openness and fairness that have made America’s digital economy a force for empowerment and opportunity here and around the world.”

Several Republicans at the hearing criticized Facebook for censoring views and posts of conservatives.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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