Claims of a Chinese fifth column within Google stoke paranoia against Asian Americans and threaten to ruin the economy – and our democracy
By Frank H Wu
17 Jul 2019
he billionaire investor Peter Thiel has accused Google of “treason” and called for a law enforcement investigation of the search engine’s parent company. He speculated that the Chinese government has invaded its employee ranks. A German immigrant via South Africa, Thiel is not alone; his remarks echo the repeated assertions of the rabble rouser Steve Bannon that there are too many Asian CEOs in Silicon Valley.
These claims, combined with similar charges of wrongdoing against students and professors of Chinese origin on campuses across the country, are as ominous as they are lurid. While Thiel presents no evidence, Bannon displays ample prejudice. They are inspiring paranoia about everyone of Chinese heritage.
At a Sunday appearance which opened the National Conservatism Conference in Washington DC followed by an appearance with the Fox TV host Tucker Carlson, Thiel, the founder of the PayPal financial service, relied on rhetorical questions. He asked Google who was working on artificial intelligence, whether “senior management considers itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated” and if the Chinese would steal the information anyway.
Google answered by reiterating that “we do not work with the Chinese military”.
Thiel left Silicon Valley last year in protest over its liberalism. He is also behind Palantir, the secretive surveillance firm, and has been a supporter of tariffs. Google had been reported to be developing a China-compatible search engine codenamed Dragonfly. They stopped due to employee objections.