Peter Thiel, co-founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies Inc., speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tech investor Peter Thiel criticized big U.S. technology companies for being too close to China at a Tuesday appearance at a virtual event held by the Richard Nixon Foundation.
Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and sits on Facebook‘s board after making an early investment, is an outspoken voice in the technology investment world is known for contrarian opinions and conservative leanings. He’s backed defense contractors like Palantir and publicly supported former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for president.
On Wednesday, the Nixon session focused on China, and he was joined by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
Thiel criticized Google for its work on artificial intelligence with Chinese universities, partially because of conversations he claimed to have with company insiders, according to a transcript of the event reviewed by CNBC.
“Since everything in China is a civilian- military fusion, Google was effectively working with the Chinese military, not with the American military,” Thiel said. He also sad that Google “insiders” told him that they worked with the Chinese because “they figured they might as well give the technology out the front door, because if they didn’t give it – it would get stolen anyway.”
A Google spokesperson told CNBC: “These allegations are baseless. We do not work with the Chinese military. We are proud to continue our long history of work with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.”
Thiel had previously criticized Google in 2019, saying that the FBI and CIA should investigate Google and ask whether it had been compromised by Chinese spies.
Thiel also said that Apple was unlikely to confront China because of its massive supply chain to manufacture iPhones and other products in the country. He noted that other big technology companies like Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft don’t have as extensive business interests in the country, in some cases because the Chinese government has restricted what they can do there.
He called for the U.S. to put a “lot of pressure” and scrutiny on Apple because of its labor supply chain in the country.
“Apple is probably the one that’s structurally a real problem, because the whole iPhone supply chain gets made from China,” Thiel said. “Apple is one that has real synergies with China.”
He also appeared to change his position on Bitcoin during the talk. Thiel has invested in Bitcoin companies and previously said he was “long bitcoin” and considers it the “digital equivalent of gold.”
On Tuesday, Thiel said that Bitcoin threatens the U.S. dollar.
“Even though I’m sort of a pro-crypto, pro-Bitcoin maximalist person, I do wonder whether at this point Bitcoin should also be thought in part of as a Chinese financial weapon against the U.S., where it threatens fiat money, but it especially threatens the U.S. dollar, and China wants to do things to weaken it, so China’s long Bitcoin,” Thiel said.