Big tech CEOs divided on China technology theft

Only Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was willing to speak out on the issue

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the only major technology CEO on Wednesday to confirm that China was stealing from U.S. companies.

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During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Zuckerberg were asked whether they believed the Chinese government was stealing technology from U.S. companies, to which the Facebook CEO said he thinks the probem is “well-documented.”

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Bezos said that while he had reports of technology theft carried out by China, he didn’t have any “personal experience” in the area.

Pichai said he had no firsthand knowledge of technology stolen from Google, but later corrected his statement to say that in 2009 there was a well-publicized cyberattack conducted by groups with origins in the country.

Cook said he knew of no cases specific to Apple’s information.

When asked what could be done by lawmakers to better protect the information and technology from theft, none of the four offered a response.

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Pichai came under fire earlier in the day for Google’s work in China. While the company has pulled out of lucrative contracts with the U.S. military over ethics concerned brought up by employees, lawmakers questioned the CEO of the search giant over its continued work in China.

Pichai noted that the company’s work in the country is “very limited,” and includes a handful of open-sourced artificial intelligence projects.

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Protecting intellectual property and technology is a main source of contention between the world’s two largest economies – and is a primary tenet of the trade deal that was struck between the U.S. and China.

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