Venture capitalist and Facebook board member Peter Thiel has reiterated his stance on Google’s presence in China, saying that it is “unprecedented” for a company to refuse contracts with the US military while seeking greater interaction with China.

Why it matters: Google has faced heightened scrutiny for its presence in China following revelations that it was working on a censored search engine to comply with Chinese laws.

  • The discussion has expanded to encompass questions about whether the company’s presence in China is benefiting the country’s military.
  • Thiel previously called for the FBI and CIA to investigate whether the Chinese government has infiltrated Google.

Details: Thiel claimed that even if Google isn’t working with the Chinese military, the technology the company develops in the country “gets handed on.” Thiel, who is also founder of controversial data-mining company Palantir, made the comments in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.

  • Google has repeatedly denied any military involvement in China.
  • Thiel stopped short of referring to the company’s actions as treachery, despite previously calling Google’s work in China “treasonous.”
  • Thiel said that Google had decided not to renew a contract with the US government while simultaneously pursuing its interests in China, a country he said is a geopolitical rival.

Context: Google’s AI research lab in Beijing has become a major point of contention, as critics say draw attention to the possible military applications of the technology the search giant develops in China.

  • Despite not offering any significant consumer-facing services in the country, Google has several businesses in China, including ad sales.
  • A Google executive claimed in July that the company had “terminated” the censored search engine it was developing for the Chinese market.
  • Thiel has not been immune to controversy. Palantir, which he originally founded in 2003, has been accused of racist hiring practices and condemned for its work with US immigration authorities on deportations.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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