Following President Trump’s pledge to outlaw TikTok in the U.S. due to its Chinese links, tech behemoth Microsoft acquiring the app has been foolishly floated as a solution to salvage the app’s U.S. operations.
Currently owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, the popular short-video app has come under fire for siphoning user data which could easily end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and removing content that undermines party-peddled consensuses on issues such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and ongoing Hong Kong protests.
But Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates, is not the panacea to America’s woes about TikTok liaising with the CCP.
1. Microsoft Collaborates With CCP On AI.
Microsoft has participated in the Chinese Communist Party’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference every year since its 2018 inception, an event that bolsters collaboration between Chinese government and military-linked companies and their American counterparts, chiefly Microsoft.
Organized annually by seven branches of the Chinese government and featuring dozens of high-level Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatchiks as speakers, the conference seeks to be the “top platform for AI cooperation and exchange.” What’s more, the conference’s explicit purpose is to carry out CCP diktats and assist in China’s quest to become the world’s technological capital “as required by the Party’s 19th National Congress.”
State-owned enterprises and companies including Tencent and Huawei — banned from operating in the U.S. by the Trump administration for providing the CCP backdoor access in a similar fashion as TikTok — are listed as Strategic Partners of the event alongside Microsoft.
Corporate Vice President and Head of Research at Microsoft Peter Lee also spoke at the 2020 conference.
This is not an isolated incident.
In 2018, Yinou Li – China Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – participated as a panelist at the Fourth Annual China and Globalization Forum in Beijing to discuss “China’s Race for Tech Supremacy.”
2. Gates’s Nuclear Firm Worked With CCP Military.
The Microsoft billionaire founded and chaired nuclear power initiative Terrapower which worked alongside China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), a Chinese energy company deemed a military asset by the U.S. government. It’s also wholly funded and administered by the Chinese government.
The state-owned enterprise is involved with “the development of China’s nuclear energy programs, both civilian and military,” and has been labeled by the Department of Defense as a Chinese military collaborator since 1999.
The State Department has also highlighted the risk of engaging with state-owned nuclear enterprises like CNNC which function “as a strategic tool with which to augment China’s comprehensive national power both through development in the civilian sector and in support of a military buildup.”
Amongst further explanation of why “it would be little short of madness for any potential foreign partner to engage uncritically with the Chinese nuclear industry,” Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford singled out CNNC for stealing Western nuclear software to “support Beijing’s efforts of high-technology military modernization.”
While the Terrapower collaboration with CNNC ended over a year into the project, it was not of their own accord.
3. Microsoft Has A Working Relationship With A Bevy Of CCP-Run Organizations.
The Berggruen Institute, whose high-level leadership is actively involved in a campaign to ensure a Biden victory in 2020, runs a China initiative which sees collaboration on “issues involving digital governance and globalization,” fundamentally seeking to “understand China.”
4. CCP Says: ‘Bill Gates Bats For China.’
In 2010, the Chinese Embassy to the U.S. issued a press release highlighting Gates’s CCP loyalty entitled “Bill Gates Bats For China.”
The revealing title was inspired by Gates’s comments on how American corporates ought to respect Chinese laws and overlook their massive censorship campaign to do business in the country.
Gates emphasized: “You have got to decide, do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there.”
The remarks – popularized by Chinese state media – provide insight into Microsoft’s willingness to acquiesce to Chinese demands in the name of market access and profit.
5. Conflicts Of Interest.
Per White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro, Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Skype platform are “effectively are enablers of Chinese censorship, surveillance, and monitoring” and alluded to the company maintaining “Chinese holdings.”
The tech company has also worked alongside VIPKID, a learning platform financed by China-based Tencent. Tencent is a tech firm flagged by the U.S. State Department as a “tool of the Chinese government” that has “no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no’ if officials decide to ask for their assistance.”
When Skype fell victim to the CCP’s heavy-handed censorship, with the video-conferencing app being banned in the country, it failed to push back. And while its search engine Bing, which has been temporarily blocked by Chinese authorities, is still allowed to operate, who’s to say Chinese users’ ability to access the platform couldn’t be leveraged as a billion-dollar bargaining chip against Microsoft?