Top Pentagon officials say Google work is 'benefiting the Chinese military'

Top Pentagon officials say Google work is 'benefiting the Chinese military'
© Greg Nash

Top defense officials on Thursday blasted Google for its work in China, saying that the company’s efforts are serving the interests of the U.S. adversary.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing there is that indirect benefit,” Dunford added. “And frankly, ‘indirect’ may not be a full characterization of the way it really is, it’s more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

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Dunford and acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration Mulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet MORE both criticized Google during the hearing for pulling out of its defense contracts while also doing work in China. The internet search giant decided not to move forward with Pentagon work after facing internal pressure from employees who were concerned about the prospect that their technology was being used for lethal purposes.

And last summer, The Intercept reported that Google had been working on a project to develop a search engine that would comply with China’s censorship laws. After an outcry from lawmakers and activists, Google said it had shelved the product.

But the company still has a subsidiary in mainland China and offers some services that haven’t been blocked by Beijing’s firewall.

Shanahan said that the Chinese military benefits from the work being done in the country’s private sector.

“The fusion of commercial business with military is significant,” he said. “Five trillion dollars of their economy is state-owned enterprises, so the technology that is developed in the civil world is transferred to the military world — it’s a direct pipeline.”

When asked for comment by The Hill, a Google spokeswoman pointed to testimony that CEO Sundar Pichai gave to Congress in December.

"As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users," Pichai said at the time. "I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure."

— Updated at 12:52 p.m.