Barr criticizes American technology for becoming “a pawn of Chinese influence”

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr discusses the filming of the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Washington, DC.Michael Brochstein | Barcroft Media | Reuters

US Attorney General William Barr lambasted American tech giants Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Cisco and Hollywood on Thursday for “too willingly collaborating with the Chinese Communist Party.””The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in a flash campaign – an aggressive and orchestrated whole-of-government campaign to capture the dominant heights of the world economy and to outdo the United States as the pre-eminent superpower of the world,” said Barr at a press conference. a speech at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

“Too often, for short-term profits, American companies have succumbed to this influence, even at the expense of freedom and openness in the United States,” he said, describing American tech companies as “Pawns of Chinese influence”.

In his scorching remarks, Barr criticized US tech companies like Cisco for helping the Communist Party build “China’s great firewall,” which he described as “the most sophisticated surveillance and monitoring system.” Internet censorship. ”

In an emailed statement to CNBC, Cisco said it “does not provide China with custom equipment to facilitate access blocking or user surveillance.”

“The products we supply to China are the same as those we supply worldwide, and we fully comply with all export control rules applicable to China, including those related to human rights,” added Cisco.

Turning to Apple, Barr reprimanded the company’s decision to transfer some of its iCloud data to servers in China, saying the move would make it easier for the Chinese government to access email, text messages and other user information. stored in the cloud. He accused the company of removing the Quartz news app from the App Store in China after the Chinese government complained about coverage of the anti-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He also briefly bypassed his prepared remarks to tear Apple apart for its lack of cooperation with U.S. authorities investigating a deadly domestic terrorist case.

The Justice Department had previously asked Apple to help extract data from two shooter-owned iPhones linked to the al-Qaida terrorist group.

“For four and a half months, we tried to get in without any help from Apple,” he said, adding that the US authorities were “finally able to take a chance that we could not reproduce in the future “.

In an emailed statement to CNBC, Apple reiterated its commitment to cybersecurity and its “strong encryption on our devices and servers” offerings.

“Our products help our Chinese customers to communicate, learn, express their creativity and exercise their ingenuity. We believe in the crucial importance of an open society in which information flows freely and are convinced that the best way to continue to promote openness is to stay engaged even when we may disagree with the laws of an country “, continues the press release.

Google declined to comment on Barr’s statements.

The company has not conducted research in China since 2010, but was forced by employees to abandon plans to launch a new research product in China in 2018. At a hearing that year, the CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress that Google had “no plans” at the time. to launch such a service.

Microsoft and Yahoo did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Barr also targeted Hollywood in his comments

Barr has also targeted Hollywood companies, including Disney, saying they regularly “bend” to the demands of Chinese censorship.

“Hollywood actors, producers and directors are proud to celebrate freedom and the human spirit. And every year at the Academy Awards, Americans learn how this country does not meet the Hollywood ideals of social justice. But Hollywood now regularly censors its own films to appease the Chinese Communist Party, “said Barr.

Justice Minister added Paramount Pictures had told film producers working on the film “World War Z” to remove a scene where characters speculated that a virus, which had triggered a zombie apocalypse, could have originated from China.

“Many more scripts are never released because writers and producers cannot test the limits. Chinese government censors don’t have to say a word because Hollywood does their job for them. This is a huge propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party, “said Barr.

Viacom, the parent company of Paramount Pictures, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for information.

Turning his attention to Disney, Barr said the entertainment company has been pushing hard to regain access to the Chinese market after the government banned all of its films.

“Disney then started courting the People’s Republic of China to open a $ 5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai. As part of the deal, Disney has agreed to give Chinese government officials a management role. Of the 11,000 full-time employees of the park, 300 are active members of the Communist Party, “said Barr, saying he thought” Walt Disney would be disheartened to see how the business he founded deals with dictatorships foreigners of our time. ”

Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Barr’s comments represent another brick in the ruined building that is the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The two largest economies in the world are struggling to improve their trade relations, with intellectual property theft proving to be a major stumbling block. The Trump administration has also blamed China for the ongoing health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

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