Amid growing concern about the risks of Google and other U.S. companies doing business in China, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the CEO of Google has "strongly stated" that he is "totally committed" to the American, not Chinese, military.
Earlier this month, Trump accused Google in a tweet of "helping China and their military, but not the U.S."
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Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Google's artificial intelligence venture in China and other U.S. companies' business in the country indirectly benefit the Chinese military and create a challenge for the United States as it seeks to maintain a competitive advantage. Dunford's comments reflect U.S. worries that any information an American company has or uses in China is automatically available to the Chinese government and its military.
Trump's tweet accusing Google of helping China came just two days after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told senators at a hearing that while he hasn't heard the tech giant say the word "refuse," Google has expressed a "lack of willingness to support" Defense Department programs. Shanahan told senators that $5 trillion of China's economy comprises state-owned enterprises and technology developed in the civilian world there transfers to the military sector.
"It's a direct pipeline," he said. "Not only is there a transfer, there's also systemic theft of U.S. technology that also facilitates even faster development of emerging technology."
Trump tweeted that in a meeting Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai "stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military."
After the meeting, Google issued a statement saying Pichai had productive conversations with Trump about investing in the American workforce, emerging technologies and "our ongoing commitment to working with the U.S. government."
Dunford met with Pichai on Wednesday at the Pentagon at Google's request, said Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, speaking for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ryder said that while the details of their conversation are private, he confirmed that Dunford shared his concerns about U.S. tech firms working in China and the potential impact on the United States' ability to maintain a competitive military advantage due to intellectual property being indirectly shared with the Chinese military.