If you don’t already know about Keith Krach, I suggest you Google him. I just nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr. Krach’s story is about securing the American dream against a generational challenge from the Chinese Communist Party.
He’s from small-town Ohio. He was a welder in his father’s machine shop. In good years, the shop had five employees. In bad, it was just Mr. Krach and his dad. From the shop, it was off to Purdue, Harvard and General Motors. He became an innovative entrepreneur who became the youngest vice president of GM, co-founded Ariba and was the CEO of DocuSign.
Business success normally gets people on the covers of magazines like Fortune or Forbes. So why should the Nobel Committee give Mr. Krach a look?
I met him when we served together at the U.S. Department of State when America’s diplomacy was led by Secretary Mike Pompeo. It’s not the kind of place where you typically come across Silicon Valley CEOs. But to him, “Silicon Valley is the Annapolis of capitalism.” He graduated ready to serve. That’s why he was chosen by Mr. Pompeo to be the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, America’s top economic diplomat, earning unanimous Senate approval — a rare bipartisan accomplishment.
He meant what he said. When it comes to taking on the CCP, there are a lot of talkers. Many are doom and gloomers. But Mr. Krach is a doer who competes to win. With unwavering support from Mr. Pompeo, under Mr. Krach’s leadership, America reversed the CCP’s global march to 5G dominance.
That accomplishment happened because of the most important alliance you’ve probably never heard of: the Clean Network. Mr. Krach built it. The Clean Network had 60 countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s GDP; more than 200 telcos; and dozens of other leading businesses. Together, they rejected companies that are really tools of the Chinese surveillance state, like Huawei and ZTE. Now, those companies are fighting to survive.
There was a simple insight at the core of the Clean Network: Every dictator’s Achilles’ heel is a lack of trust. Democracies have trust, and authoritarians don’t. It comes from the rule of law, respect for human rights and the democratic process. Trust is transformational, both in business and in geopolitics. Mr. Krach developed the “Trust Principle,” a peaceful and compelling alternative to the CCP’s “Power Principle” of coercion and cooptation, both at home and abroad.
It’s hard to argue with the Clean Network’s success. Former President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “The Clean Network’s defeat of the Chinese Communist Party’s masterplan to control 5G communications was the first time a government-led initiative proved that China’s economic warfare is beatable.” Robert Hormats, Mr. Krach’s predecessor at state in the Obama administration added, “The Clean Network’s success in countering China’s 5G plan serves as a powerful, nonpartisan model for rallying our allies, leveraging the private sector, and amplifying democratic values based on trust.”
The Clean Network became the subject of a case study by Harvard Business School. A Bloomberg article even compared Mr. Krach’s Clean Network to George Kennan’s “Long Telegram.”
Mr. Krach had other accomplishments. He brokered the $12 billion onshoring of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to Arizona, an essential step in securing the semiconductor supply chain and creating jobs. He drove divestment from CCP companies, protecting investors from unknowingly financing the Chinese military and human-rights abuses. He catalyzed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. He strengthened ties with democratic Taiwan, becoming the highest-ranking State Department official to visit the island nation since 1979. And not only did he go there, he forged the Lee Economic Prosperity Partnership and the Science and Technology Cooperation Pact, an ongoing agreement under the Biden administration.
Trust is also about values, which are priceless. Besides Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Krach was among the first U.S. diplomats to publicly label the CCP’s abuses against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang a genocide. He alerted CEOs, university governing boards and leaders of civil society groups about how they were unwitting participants in the Chinese Communist Party’s “systematic attempt to destroy Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.” He called on the boards of public and private institutions to disclose and divest from Chinese companies enabling human rights violations. And he continues to speak out.
Mr. Krach isn’t the business-as-usual kind of nominee the Nobel Committee typically sees. But my fellow nominators and I observed that it sometimes takes an outsider to see the obvious. Conventional diplomacy wasn’t working. He saw how central technology is to security, and the threat from the CCP. And he did something about it. His actions put him in the crosshairs of the Chinese government, which sanctioned his family and declared him an enemy of the state.
But Mr. Krach continues his service. He and several members of his state team established the nonpartisan Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue University, which according to board member General Stanley McChrystal, “is rapidly becoming the foremost authority on securing freedom through Tech Statecraft.”
The Nobel Committee’s consideration of Mr. Krach will no doubt face the CCP’s opposition, too, perhaps even its intimidation and retaliation. That’s how you know Mr. Krach’s a good choice. The committee faced such threats when it awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The CCP placed an economic and diplomatic blockade on Norway, the Nobel Prize’s home. But it was still the right thing to do.
America’s allies and partners trusted Keith Krach to lead a new kind of tech. That trust was rewarded with a more secure future for the democratic world. It’s a Nobel-worthy accomplishment.
• Miles Yu served as the senior China policy and planning adviser to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He is the Robert Alexander Mercer visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and senior fellow at the Hudson and Project 2049 Institutes.
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