Peter Thiel Blasts Silicon Valley's 'Useful Idiots' for Selling Out to China

Peter Thiel / Getty Images
April 7, 2021

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel slammed Silicon Valley leaders for outsourcing vital technologies to the Chinese Communist Party.

Joined by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser Robert O’Brien at a Tuesday seminar on China, Thiel said his peers in the tech industry act as "useful idiots" for the interests of Beijing by transferring innovative American technology to the oppressive regime. The entrepreneur and founder of PayPal pointed to companies such as Google that export artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to China, tools used to oversee the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Western China.

"It’s some combination of wishful thinking. It’s useful idiots, you know, it’s CCP fifth column collaborators," Thiel said of Silicon Valley administrators. "I think if you think of it ideologically or in terms of human rights or something like that, I’m tempted to say it’s just profoundly racist. It’s like saying that because they look different, they’re not white people, they don’t have the same rights. It’s something super wrong."

O’Brien accused Silicon Valley leaders of hypocrisy for preaching "woke" pieties about social justice issues in the United States while ignoring crackdowns on human rights and political freedom within China.

"In Silicon Valley, we’ve got ... a very woke industry in general about what’s happening here," O’Brien said. "Yet it’s not very woke in what’s happening to the Uyghurs, what’s happening to the Tibetans, what’s happening to the democrats with a small ‘d’ in Hong Kong, the threats against Taiwan where you’ve got the indigenous people of Taiwan. So, there seems to be less concern about those folks in Silicon Valley and industry in general than the concern for woke progressive politics here."

Part of the tech problem, Thiel said, also comes from American companies refusing to cooperate with the Pentagon and instead pivoting to Beijing. In order to right the ship, he said, the United States must take a more active role in pressuring private companies to divorce from Chinese markets.

"We need to call companies like Google out on working on AI with Communist China, not with [the] U.S. military," Thiel said. "I think we should be putting a lot of pressure on Apple with its whole labor-force supply chain on the iPhone manufacturing in China.... There is [this] obviously crazy double standard where labor laws don’t apply there, but do apply here and all sorts of crazy double standards, and you need to call people out on that relentlessly. I think the cyber security is simply a mess as far as I can tell."

A major element of the conflict with China is an ideological struggle, Pompeo said. Beyond preparing the American tech industry for competition with China, Americans must also "be unashamed" about addressing abuses perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party, he said.

"We will know who ultimately wins this by which ideas dominate the next 10, 20, 40 years," Pompeo said. "We need to be unashamed about talking about that, whether on college campus or at a PTA meeting or at the United Nations."