VP Pence calls on Google to end work on a search engine for China

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence called for Google to end its development of a search engine custom built to accommodate China’s disposition for censorship.

Pence gave the speech at a conservative think tank in D.C., dipping into a range of anti-Beijing sentiments, from intellectual property concerns to tariffs and the trade war. Pence didn’t mince words, calling on Google to abandon its plans for a China-friendly mobile version of its otherwise ubiquitous search engine.

Pence accused any company with plans to work around Chinese internet restrictions of “abetting Beijing’s oppression” and didn’t hesitate to call the search giant out by name:

More business leaders are thinking beyond the next quarter, and thinking twice before diving into the Chinese market if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression. But more must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the “Dragonfly” app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers…

More journalists are reporting the truth without fear or favor, and digging deep to find where China is interfering in our society, and why – and we hope that more American, and global, news organizations will join in this effort.

More scholars are speaking out forcefully and defending academic freedom, and more universities and think tanks are mustering the courage to turn away Beijing’s easy money, recognizing that every dollar comes with a corresponding demand. We’re confident that more will join their ranks.

And across the nation, the American people are growing in vigilance, with a newfound appreciation for our administration’s actions to re-set America’s economic and strategic relationship with China, to finally put America First.

Pence’s full remarks are available on the Hudson Institute’s website.

Google’s covert project, known as Dragonfly, is reportedly a version of the search engine that blocks forbidden sites like Facebook and Twitter, censors search terms like the Tiananmen Square massacre and cuts out prominent Western news sources like the BBC and The New York Times. The project, first reported by the Intercept, sparked internal turmoil at the company and a letter of protest from employees who felt too in the dark to make “ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

Google drama aside, Pence’s tough talk on China might be politically expedient bluster, but it’s not without irony: The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed its outright contempt for a free press, a hallmark of an aggressively restrictive government like China. Pence’s derision of China’s “unparalleled surveillance state” is also fairly rich, given domestic policy on warrantless surveillance.

The vice president also took the opportunity to refresh controversial claims that China is “meddling” in the U.S. midterm elections, echoing language often used to describe Russia’s substantiated election interference efforts. President Trump suggested as much last week, claiming that China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration.” Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen declined to endorse the president’s unsubstantiated claims, noting that China pursues a “holistic approach” to cultivating a positive image in the U.S.