Peter Thiel, Co-Founder and Chairman of Palantir Technologies Inc., speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, November 18, 2019.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tech investor Peter Thiel criticized major US tech companies for being too close to China when they appeared at a virtual Richard Nixon Foundation event on Tuesday.
Co-founder of PayPal and after an early investment on the Facebook board of directors, Thiel is an outspoken voice in the technology investment world known for opposing opinions and conservative leanings. He has supported defense companies like Palantir and publicly endorsed former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, the Nixon session focused on China, and he was accompanied by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
Thiel criticized Google for its artificial intelligence work with Chinese universities, in part based on conversations it allegedly had with corporate insiders, according to a transcript of the CNBC-reviewed event.
“Since everything in China is a civil-military merger, Google has worked effectively with the Chinese military, not the American military,” Thiel said. He’s also sad that Google “insiders” told him they worked with the Chinese because “they thought they might as well hand the technology off on their doorstep because if they didn’t give it, it would be stolen anyway . “
Thiel had already criticized Google in 2019 and said that the FBI and the CIA should investigate Google and ask whether it had been compromised by Chinese spies.
A Google spokesman said at the time: “As we said before, we do not work with the Chinese military.”
Thiel also said Apple is unlikely to confront China due to its massive supply chain for making iPhones and other products in the country. He noted that other big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft don’t have as extensive business interests in the country, in some cases because the Chinese government has curtailed their options there.
He called on the US to put “a lot of pressure” and control on Apple because there is a labor supply chain in the country.
“Apple is probably the one that is structurally a real problem, since the entire iPhone supply chain consists of China,” said Thiel. “Apple has real synergies with China.”
During the conversation, he also appeared to change his position on Bitcoin. Thiel has invested in Bitcoin companies and previously said he was “Long Bitcoin” and considered it the “digital equivalent of gold”.
On Tuesday, Thiel said that Bitcoin is threatening the US dollar.
“Although I’m a kind of pro-crypto-pro-Bitcoin maximalist, I wonder if Bitcoin should also be partially thought of as a Chinese financial weapon against the US, where it threatens fiat money, but it threatens the US in particular Dollars, and China wants to do things to weaken it, so China’s long Bitcoin, “said Thiel.