President Trump‘s newly appointed Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios on Thursday criticized Chinese surveillance and censorship in his first major international remarks, ramping up the Trump administration’s intensifying battle to beat out China’s fast-growing tech industry.
Kratsios, who was confirmed as the White House’s top tech adviser in August, spent the bulk of a keynote speech in Portugal urging Europe and the U.S. to “embrace innovation and defend our free system against our adversaries.”
“If we don’t act now, Chinese influence and control of technology will not only undermine the freedoms of their own citizens, but all citizens of the world,” Kratsios said, naming China’s widespread surveillance of its citizens and censorship of online content as examples of its “authoritarian” approach to technology.
“The Chinese government has built an advanced authoritarian state by twisting technology to put censorship over free expression and citizen control over empowerment,” Kratsios, who has been serving at the helm of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy since 2017, said.
The Trump administration has prioritized defeating China in the ongoing “race” to implement next-generation wireless technologies and improve artificial intelligence, though some analysts have noted that China is currently ahead of the U.S. on both fronts by many metrics.
Amid an ongoing trade war, which China and the U.S. have so far been unable to resolve, the U.S. has escalated a pressure campaign against Chinese technology.
The Trump administration banned the government from using equipment from Chinese telecom giant Huawei due to concerns about the company’s close ties to the Chinese state, and it has officially declared that American companies will soon no longer be allowed to do business with the firm.
Concerns around Chinese companies working in the U.S. have largely stemmed from a Chinese intelligence law adopted in 2017 that requires all Chinese companies to “assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”
The battle against Chinese tech has also emerged as the U.S. seeks to get a leg up in its race to implement next-generation wireless services, known as 5G, ahead of China. 5G wireless is expected to provide internet connections that are exponentially faster than current speeds and enable a host of new technologies — including the “internet of things,” or an array internet-connected everyday objects — and China is considered the U.S.’s top competitor in the 5G field.
Kratsios in his speech specifically hit Huawei, accusing the company of committing espionage.
“Yet despite this and other grave and documented actions that run counter to the values of America, Europe, and our allies, countries around the world continue to consider opening their arms to Chinese companies in order to build critical infrastructure, like 5G, or develop key technology, like artificial intelligence,” Kratsios said.
The European Union has so far declined to entirely ban Huawei equipment, and Kratsios’s remarks on Thursday mark the latest push by the Trump administration for U.S. allies to eschew the company.
“Technological leadership from democratic nations has never been more of an imperative,” Kratsios said.