Tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel said Tuesday that American Big Tech companies do not consider themselves to be “American companies” due to “woke politics” and because their employees — particularly Chinese nationals — are sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party on some issues.
Thiel said during a virtual discussion hosted by former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo:
If you look at the big five tech companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft — virtually very, very little presence in China. So they aren’t naturally a pro-China constituency. Apple is probably the one that’s structurally a real problem because the whole iPhone supply chain gets made from China, and Apple is one that has real synergies with China. But then, there’s something about the woke politics inside these companies, the way they think of themselves as not really American companies. And it’s somehow very, very difficult to, for them to have a sharp anti-China edge of any sort whatsoever. [Emphasis added.]
At Facebook, I’ll give you an example. You had with the Hong Kong protest a year ago, the employees from Hong Kong were all in favor of the protests and free speech. But there were more employees at Facebook who were born in China than who were born in Hong Kong. And the Chinese nationals actually said that, you know, it was just Western arrogance and shouldn’t be taking Hong Kong’s side and things like that. And then the rest of the employees at Facebook sort of stayed out of it. But the internal debate felt like people were actually more anti-Hong Kong than pro-Hong Kong.
Thiel was responding to a question about China’s advantages on tech vis-à-vis the United States. The discussion was the Richard Nixon Foundation’s inaugural Nixon Seminar hosted by co-chairmen Pompeo and former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.
O’Brien slammed Silicon Valley progressives supporting woke policies at home but then ignoring human rights abuses abroad:
So in Silicon Valley, we’ve got, it’s a very woke industry in general about what’s happening here. And yet it’s not very woke in what’s happening to the Uyghurs, what’s happening to the Tibetans, what’s happening to the democrats with a small “d” in Hong Kong, the threats against Taiwan where you’ve got the indigenous people of Taiwan.
So, there seems to be less concern about those folks in Silicon Valley and industry in general than the concern for woke progressive politics here. How are they surprised and how do they get their conscience back when it comes to folks around the world? Maybe even victims of environmental disaster?
Thiel said there are plenty of issues for which the woke left could criticize China, such as their environmental or human rights record.
“If you’re concerned about climate change, maybe the tariffs the Trump administration put on China were way too small. They should be much higher, even the carbon tax should be higher because they use coal power. Even the electric cars in China are dirty; they’re dirtier than oil-power cars than China. But somehow it’s very difficult to talk about this stuff coherently,” he said.
He recalled speaking with some Google employees working in artificial intelligence technology and asking them, “Is your AI being used to run the concentration camps in Xinjiang?” He said they responded, “Well, We don’t know and don’t ask any questions.”
“You have this almost magical thinking that by pretending everything is fine, that’s how you engage and have a conversation. And you make the world better. And it’s some combination of wishful thinking. It’s useful idiots, you know, it’s CCP fifth column collaborators,” he said.
“I’m tempted to say it’s just profoundly racist. It’s like saying that because they look different, they’re not white people, they don’t have the same rights. It’s something super wrong. But I don’t quite know how you unlock that,” he added.
Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox, who also participated in the seminar, noted that Thiel put policies in place at the company he founded, Palantir, to not make deals with countries that are not on good terms with the United States.
“That’s such a great leadership position you’ve taken in Silicon Valley and I really commend you for that because that’s going to be the big issue — Where does big tech fall in the divide with United States and China? So I commend you with that.”