Google should refuse to develop a censored search engine for China, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday while criticizing the Communist regime.
“Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” Pence said at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.
Pence’s recommendation came amid a broad criticism of China’s domestic repression and international aggression. But his turn towards Google attests to how U.S. leaders also see Beijing's relationship with American institutions as a source of unwarranted strength for Chinese leaders, even as President Trump takes a more confrontational posture towards the rising Asian power.
Pence reiterated Trump’s charge that China is “meddling” with the 2018 midterms, citing a “sensitive document” acquired by U.S. intelligence agents that outlines China’s propaganda goals.
“It states that China must ‘strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups’ in the United States,” Pence said, offering the document as evidence that "China wants a different American president.”
The vice president’s address ranged across a wide spectrum of Chinese human rights abuses at home and adversarial moves towards the United States. It dovetailed with recent CIA assessments that China is engaged in “a cold war” against the United States.
“The Chinese are increasingly defining a conflict with the United States and what we stand behind [as] a systems conflict,” Michael Collins, the CIA’s deputy assistant director for the East Asia Mission Center, said in July.
American entities and companies with the potential to shape public opinion, in the United States and abroad, have increasing importance in the eyes of D.C. policymakers. Republican and Democratic lawmakers worry that technology companies such as Google will end up complicit in the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses — a rebuke that Pence elevated on Thursday. But they’re also concerned about China using economic muscle to pressure companies at home and abroad.
“Beijing now requires American joint ventures that operate in China to establish ‘party organizations’ within their company, giving the Communist Party a voice – and perhaps a veto – in hiring and investment decisions,” he said in his prepared remarks. “The Communist Party has also threatened and detained the Chinese family members of American journalists who pry too deep. And it has blocked the websites of U.S. media organizations and made it harder for our journalists to get visas. This happened after the New York Times published investigative reports about the wealth of some of China’s leaders.”
American officials regard China as cultivating a peaceful image for strategic purposes, while running a “hundred-year marathon” to beat the United States as a global superpower. Pence argued that the public image is disintegrating.
“More journalists are reporting the truth without fear or favor, and digging deep to find where China is interfering in our society, and why – and we hope that more American, and global, news organizations will join in this effort,” he said. “And under President Trump’s leadership, America will stay the course. China should know that the American people and their elected representatives in both parties are resolved.”