Last night the big tech CEOs sat in front of a camera and answered the US lawmakers in a hearing that lasted for hours. The hearing was about the practices of companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook and whether they are monopolies or not. There were a lot of interesting questions for Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook but one that stood out was about what sort of challenges the tech companies are facing from China. The CEOs were asked to comment on reports that China was stealing technology knowhow from big Silicon Valley companies.
The question was asked by Republican congressman Greg Steube and answers to it were different from all the four CEOs. The three, including Pichai, denied that China had stolen any of their technology. But Mark Zuckerberg said that it has.
“I don’t know of specific cases where we have been stolen from by the government,” Cook said. “I know of no case (of) ours where it occurred … I can only speak to first-hand knowledge.”
Pichai too talked of first-hand knowledge. “I have no first-hand knowledge of any information stolen from Google in this regard,” he said.
Bezos was ambivalent. He said that he had heard reports of China stealing technology but his company hasn’t faced it. “I have heard many reports of that,” he said. “I haven’t seen it personally.”
Mark, however, was clear. And he said it is well-documented that Chinese government steals technology from tech companies. “I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies,” he said.
The comments from the top tech CEOs come in the wake of increasing buzz around the way Chinese government supposedly uses China-based tech companies to increase its influence in the world. And a number of countries are growing wary of Chinese companies. Recently, a number of countries have moved to bar or discourage Huawei from supplying technology for next-generation 5G networks.
India too has moved against some Chinese companies. Recently India banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, because it perceived them to be detrimental to the national security and to the privacy of users who had these apps on their phones.