Sen. Cruz: We Must Begin to Rethink the Assumptions That Have Guided U.S. Policies Toward China Since Tiananmen Square
Participates in hearing examining role of U.S. technology in Chinese espionage and oppression
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, participated in a hearing today titled ‘Rule By Fear: 30 Years After Tiananmen Square.' There, he questioned expert witnesses on the role U.S. technology plays in China's oppression of its people. He also highlighted his Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft (SHEET) Act to counter Chinese espionage efforts and influence operations in American universities.
"This week marks a dark occasion in world history," Sen. Cruz said. "Thirty years ago, thousands of Chinese protestors gathered in Tiananmen Square demanding freedom and demanding democracy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People's Liberation Army slaughtered them. To this day we still don't know exactly how many perished on ‘that bloody dawn,' as Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo described it. Today, the CCP continues its war against the people of China and treats the rest of the world with similar disdain. In my view China poses the greatest long-term geopolitical threat to the United States. They have to be dealt with, and dealt with, with clear eyes. We can't break off relations with Beijing, but we must begin to rethink the assumptions that have guided U.S. policies toward China since Tiananmen Square."
Sen. Cruz's full line of questioning may be viewed here and below:
Sen. Cruz: "Thank you Mr. Chairman, thank you to each of the witnesses for being here today. This week marks a dark occasion in world history. Thirty years ago, thousands of Chinese protestors gathered in Tiananmen Square demanding freedom and demanding democracy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People's Liberation Army slaughtered them. To this day we still don't know exactly how many perished on ‘that bloody dawn,' as Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo described it. Today, the CCP continues its war against the people of China and treats the rest of the world with similar disdain. In my view China poses the greatest long-term geopolitical threat to the United States. They have to be dealt with, and dealt with, with clear eyes. We can't break off relations with Beijing, but we must begin to rethink the assumptions that have guided U.S. policies toward China since Tiananmen Square.
"Let's start by addressing an uncomfortable reality here at home: the role of U.S. technology in China's oppression of its people. Dr. Richardson, Human Rights Watch recently released a report where your colleagues reverse-engineered a Chinese censorship app for smart phones. This app, called the ‘Integrated Joint Operations Platform,' is a primary tool of mass surveillance in Xinjiang. In this report, you reference U.S.-based companies that contribute to the censorship apparatus in Xinjiang. This week I plan to introduce legislation, the ‘TIANANMEN Act of 2019,' to restrict China's access to such technology. In your judgement, how wide-spread is U.S. technology in modern-day Chinese surveillance and censorship?"
Dr. Richardson: "Senator, thanks for that question. I wish I had a perfect answer to it. When we're done reverse engineering things, that's the next one on our list of research projects. But I think the fact that we don't have clarity about that, and that it's not easy to get clarity about that, is a problem in and of itself. And we've discussed this morning the need for due diligence strategies from all manner of companies - whether they're tech companies, whether they're infrastructure extractives, you know about what the nature of their business is and how they can be sure they are not enabling or contributing to human rights violations."
Sen. Cruz: "If you Google ‘Tiananmen Square' in China, do you learn anything about the massacre? About the slaughter?"
Xiao Qiang: "You'll see all the tourists, right? And the tourists pictures. But remember this, the Chinese government cannot really - not only suppressing those discussions, they're also guiding and inciting and sort of channeling the public opinion to the ideological foundation that's supporting the regime. Only under the fear and under such technology support that strategy is some kind of effective. But now we have a game changer, which is the new layer of the artificial intelligence big data technology. Yes, U.S. is still ahead of China on artificial intelligence in many areas, but not on implementation on facial recognition, not on voice recognition, not on some of the other metrics collecting. Because China has a large set of data. They're training their algorithms to make their application much more precise and comprehensive and fast. And this is the danger."
Sen. Cruz: "Well and many of us are concerned that U.S. companies are actively aiding and abetting China's suppression of its people and censorship of free speech. Indeed, days before the Tiananmen Square anniversary this year, reports began to circulate that Twitter had suspended the accounts of dozens of Chinese political dissidents. Twitter reportedly had run a sweep for bots. How would you describe the Communist Party's efforts to coerce American companies into assisting in the Party's censorship activities?"
Xiao Qiang: "On Twitter I can say this: I don't know what's recently happened inside of [the] Twitter company. I think they should tell the public, giving a report on that. But I do know that the Chinese espionage and intelligence communities have developed the tools, the technologies, to infiltrate the Twitter, Facebook, Gmails. That creating Facebook account that creating [Facebook posts and tweets] and penetrating anybody's tweet [Twitter] account or Gmail account or Facebook account. They have that technology."
Sen. Cruz: "Mr. Walker, you've warned about China's ‘sharp power,' and you've described the Chinese infiltration of American higher education institutions. This is an issue that concerns me greatly. Just this week I introduced the Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act, which gives the FBI and DHS new authorities to address this issue. My question for you, is what steps should universities take to insulate themselves from Chinese espionage? And what steps should the U.S. government take to protect higher education from these threats?"
Christopher Walker: "Thank you Senator. I think the question you've asked is related to the previous one as well, that this is a pattern of either inducing, or cajoling, or coercing open institutions - independent institutions in open societies - to behave in ways they wouldn't otherwise behave. And so you've alluded to some of these issues that are relevant to the stealing of technology and related things, but there's a full spectrum of challenges that have emerged that transcend those issues which can induce educators, students in our open societies to side-step certain issues, or to not talk about certain things that aren't welcome by the Chinese authorities. And I think this is something that we need to find, as I've alluded to in previous writings and earlier today, to find ways to develop more durable democratic solidarity, so that no single institution is exposed to the entreaties and the influence of the Chinese party state. That's the most effective way over time to have these institutions feel as though they can say, ‘No,' and essentially uphold liberal democratic standards."
Sen. Cruz: "Thank you."