Simone: At the end of 2017 the Co Founder of Google Sergey Brin, sat in a company wide meeting,regarding Google’s involvement in the Pentagon project that,these are his words, he said he thought that it was better for peace if the world’s militaries are intertwined with international organizations like Google rather than working solely was nationalistic defense contractors. So I’m a little confused here. Is Google an international organization or is Google a US company?
Robert Spalding: Well, it’s a, it’s a multinational corporation.
Simone: Does it need to stay loyal to the United States of America?
Robert Spalding: Well, if it wants to have a soul, I think it does, but unfortunately then in today’s globalized world, if you align yourself, if you want to be in China, if you want to be doing business in China, then you do it according to how the Chinese Communist Party wants.
Narration: At the beginning of a new Cold War era in a globalized world, what role do big tech companies play and who do they identify themselves with? To address these questions, I interviewed Brigadier General Robert Spalding, who served as Senior Director for Strategic Planning. at the National Security Council at the White House.
Host: I am Simone Gao, and you are watching Zooming In.
Title: Breaking Google Up Is not Enough: Robert Spalding
Simone: All right. Thank you general for being with us today.
Robert Spalding: Glad to be here.
Simone: Okay. First of all, let me congratulate you on your new book, The Stealth War.
Robert Spalding: Thank you.
Simone: I haven’t read it yet, so we can’t go in depth on this, but,why don’t you just give me a little preview of this book and what the Stealth War is about.
Robert Spalding: So actually it’s really a compilation of everything I’ve learned over the last, really five years about everything that the Chinese Communist Party does from finance, business, investment, trade, media, the Internet, politics, academia, all of the ways that they work across the institutions of the open system to really undermine democracy from within. And then at the end it really talks about solutions. It really goes into kind of how the United States should approach this behavior by the Chinese Communist Party and what it should do to protect itself, how it should strengthen its institutions, how it should grow the economy and how it should join with other like minded nations to really promote democracy in those countries as well. Because the more democracies we have in the world and the stronger they’re linked together,and the economic, financial and informational way, to include the military alliances that we already have, we’ll be in a much better position as democracies to protect ourselves and protect our values and to protect our citizens.
Simone: Tell me, who is the reader of this book?
Robert Spalding: Well, the reader of this book are, hopefully, men and women, the 3.4 million that were displaced from manufacturing jobs. Really, anybody that works for a living in the United States or used to work for a living, where they had a long-term employment that provided them health care benefits and retirement benefits that allowed them to have the income to own a home, to raise their children, to send them to school, to really take part in the American dream. This book is for them.
Simone: Okay, so it’s not for Washington elites.
Robert Spalding: It’s not for Washington elites.
Simone: Okay. Is there going to be a Chinese version as well?
Robert Spalding: Absolutely. There’s gonna be a Chinese version. A Taiwanese publisher Yuen Liu is going to publish the book, and it’s going to be available probably everywhere that Chinese language books are sold except Mainland China. I doubt they’ll let it in.
Simone: Really looking forward to discussing more about this book with you. Let’s talk about John Bolton. I believe the president is surrounded by many hawks. What went wrong with this one?
Robert Spalding: Well, I think you know, it’s probably not a good fit for the president for the kind of foreign policy that he wants to execute, which is much less interventionists and more about building the economy, more about protecting the American people in their day to day lives, providing for them in terms of their wellbeing, both economically, financially, and socially and politically. Things quite frankly, that have to do with the book that we just talked about. And I think the way that we pursued foreign policy since the end of the cold for has been much from a unipolar perspective. The United States was the most, clearly the most powerful country in the world coming out of the Cold War. And our policies really were about as I’ve said before, open markets lead to wealth and wealth leads to democracy. Unfortunately many nations led by China began to undermine the international order by using all the openness that we…that used to be strengths to undermine the system from within.
Robert Spalding: And so to actually compete in that way, it’s much more like the competition with the Soviet Union, which was really an economic and a technological competition. The military was there, but it was essentially a standoff,using nuclear deterrent. I think the Trump administration, in terms of where the president wants to be is…The military is there. It’s there to protect the people. It’s there to make adversaries pause when they think about confronting the United States militarily, it’s really there as a deterrent, but it doesn’t need to be used quite as often. The clearest parallel in terms of an administration, tt has existed in the United States is the Eisenhower administration. It was much more about deterrent. It was less interventionists, certainly, Esenhower had come out of the great war in World War II and understood the cost of combat and the cost of war to the soldiers and sailors and airmen under his command.
Robert Spalding: And so he really, I think was more prudent when it came to exercising military power. But the powers of the state in a globalized Internet powered world are quite expensive, especially when you consider the United States has the reserve currency and the US dollar has, you know, a really robust market driven by domestic consumption. Has you know, a diplomatic and economic and financial and trade footprint that really spans the globe. And in addition, has a number of global military alliances. And so the United States is well positioned to both grow its strength and influence its allies and partners in a way that promotes the collective values of the international order, which as I’ve talked about before, is really about democratic principles, free trade,rule of law and self determination.
Simone: Okay. I’ll, I think the biggest difference John Bolton has with the president is in Afghanistan and Iran. With John Bolton gone, What do you think the US policy in Afghanistan is heading to?
Robert Spalding: Well, I don’t know because it seems like as I’ve watched this both from within the administration and from without the administration, the president has been consistent in his message in that we need to do something else with the resources that we have expended, both in terms of the people and the material and the money. We spend anywhere from 40 to $60 billion a year in Afghanistan. That’s money that could be better spent in the United States promoting our economic and technological well being. Our industrial base is completely decimated, since China entered the WTO and we off-shored over 70,000 factories. So I think he’s looking at the opportunity costs of where that money gets spent currently and where it could be spent in terms of improving our economic security and really, economic security and economic power underpins everything that the United States can and should be in the international order.
Simone: What do you think is the biggest problem, if, I mean, do you consider the US policy in Afghanistan to be a successful one? And what is the biggest problem with the US policy in Afghanistan?
Robert Spalding: Well, I would, I think any terrorists would be hard pressed to say the United States is not going to be…not going to respond very swiftly and very confidently and actually very expertly in terms of going after those who would commit violence to American citizens. And so I think from a deterrent aspect, it really shows that the United States is not a paper tiger. It is willing to protect its citizens and will go to great lengths to protect its citizens. I think from the standpoint of where we go from here, we’ve been in Afghanistan for 19 years. I think it’s time for us to shift priorities, even during World War II. If you think about it, we had two major theaters of war and we had priorities there. We prioritized Europe first and Japan was second. And so, in a way, the United States got out of the business of prioritizing its national security and really said, “Hey, we can take all comers”. Well,after the end of the Cold War, maybe that was the case, but today it certainly isn’t and it really isn’t prudent foreign policy or national security policy to think that we can take on every challenge that’s out there.
Simone: Let’s talk about China. I know you went to Poland a few days ago and the US and Poland signed a deal to strengthen cooperation in 5G technology. So does that mean Huawei is out in Poland?
Robert Spalding: It does mean Huawei is out in Poland, but it isn’t the end of the story because quite frankly, no. OEM equipment maker in the infrastructure portion of the network is really building a secure network. A 5G network without security is really dangerous for democracies. And unfortunately most of the security standards and the underlying technology has been developed by China. And so to this day, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, which would really be the major equipment manufacturers,other than Huawei and ZTE have not come out and said, we are going to absolutely commit to creating a one of a kind secure network that would protect people’s data in a way that is by GDPR in Europe the General Data Protection Regulation. Or you know, in a way that in the United States would ensure that elections can’t be tampered with or the individuals can’t be influenced by state actors, which is what happens today.
Simone: So can Huawei still be stopped and how?
Robert Spalding: I think the question we have to ask is: Can the Communist Party, the Chinese Communist Party be stopped in creating this global network and essentially app services and business models that are built on the 5g infrastructure. Can we prevent that from allowing the communist party to influence outside their borders? I think the answer to that is yes, but as I said all along the United States, the government actually needs to take a leadership role in the digital space. You know, so when it just allows tech companies to essentially harvest data and do whatever they want with that data and allows for nations like China, like the Russians, like the North Koreans or the Iranians to do the same without essentially committing to protecting the American people, their data, then you’re essentially acceding the battlefield to the Chinese Communist Party and others.
Simone: Do you think the American leadership is ready to take a leadership role in, in this area?
Robert Spalding: I think the president’s ready. Remember I referred to Eisenhower. What did Eisenhower say? He said, beware the undue influence of the military industrial complex. Okay. So one of the things that supported by a very hawkish military national security policy is the industrial…the military industrial complex. They make money from that F-35’s, aircraft carriers, tanks, submarines, all of those things ended up being for enormous profits for these companies. And so there’s an enormous profit incentive behind continuing this type in intervention as foreign policy or militaristic foreign policy, if you will.
Simone: At the end of 2017. Google, the Google folk. See this? Okay. Yeah. So at the end of 2017 the Cofounder of Google Sergey Brin, sat in a company wide meeting,regarding Google’s involvement in the Pentagon project that,these are his words, he said he thought that it was better for peace if the world’s militaries are intertwined with international organizations like Google rather than working solely was nationalistic defense contractors. So I’m a little confused here. Is Google an international organization or is Google a US company?
Robert Spalding: Well, it’s a, it’s a multinational corporation and I think one of the things that I can say is that I actually applaud Sergey Brin for originally taking Google out of China, as coming from the former Soviet Union, he understood, I think the implications of totalitarianism and certainly what the Chinese Communist Party was going to do. But of course as he stepped away from a day to day leadership role in the company and allowed more of a multinational corporate structure to evolve in Google, the company has gotten away from its you know, its core values, which is “Don’t do evil”. And when you, when you essentially partner with a totalitarian regime that does, you know, creates concentration camps or does organ harvesting or does any of the, the really oppressive things that the Chinese Communist Party does then it begins to corrupt your soul.
Robert Spalding: And the problem with being a multinational corporation in today’s day and age, globalization, really comes without democratic principles, human rights, civil rights or rule of law. It’s really the law of the jungle in the international order because the Chinese Communist Party is basically determined not to follow any of the rules. When the second biggest economy in the world is intertwined with everybody and is determined not to follow the rules, then pretty soon others stop following the rules. And it really becomes a free for all. And a Google has joined that free for all. And what they’re doing is they’re aligning themselves with where they think the future is, which is a growing Chinese economy. Unfortunately, when they do that, they have to abandon the principles of the United States where they were founded and adopt international principles. But since the international order is really like the wild west, there ended up being no principles other than power and control.
Robert Spalding: And so while large tech companies can fight for power and control very effectively in that environment, they’re not as effective as a nation state. So the Chinese Communist Party has far more levers to pull in the international order than Google does. So Google ends up being, you know, a fast follower, but still it sees where its future lies and that lies in the free and open data rules within China that that allows the government to actually monitor and control everything that everybody does. That’s a world that Google can appreciate because it can see where it can make a lot of money doing that. And of course what happens is that model begins to run into problems in a free society where privacy and rules about what you can do with other people’s data begin to bump up against our own values.
Simone: I think Google’s identity does matter. I mean, does Google equate themselves to an international organization? To me, an international organization would be like Red Cross. I mean, does Google, like you said, Google, consider itself as a multinational corporation. Does it need to stay loyal to the United States of America?
Robert Spalding: Well, if it wants to have a soul, I think it does, but unfortunately then in today’s globalized world, if you align yourself, if you want to be in China, if you want to be doing business in China, then you do it according to how the Chinese Communist Party wants. And if you don’t do it according to how the Chinese Communist Party wants, then you’re not doing business in China. And so Google as a business, wants to do business in China. And in order to do that, the Chinese communist party requires that Google, essentially abandon all of its values other than power, control and profit when it crosses the threshold into China.
Simone: The bottom line is you think Google doesn’t have an obligation to stay faithful to its country…
Robert Spalding: Under our current laws and convention and the rules of the United States? No essentially has a requirement to both directors and the executives of Google have a requirement to deliver value to the shareholder. That’s it. There are no other legal requirements. And so to the extent that they are not by law providing value to the shareholders then their actually violating their fiduciary responsibility. So in a lot of ways, our system is set up so that it’s very…it’s not only easy for companies to abandon US values and principles, it’s also mandatory, when dealing with the Chinese Communist Party in particular.
Simone: You know, Google turned down a few Department of Defense…Google turned down with few Department of Defense. So Google turned down several Department of Defense projects. That’s worth like a tens of billions of dollars and instead, Google builds like AI centers in China. So do you think the AI Research Google does, can directly benefit the PLA?
Robert Spalding: Well, I’m sure it probably can, but I think it’s more going to support organizations like the United Front Work Department that is really responsible for creating propaganda and influence around the world. I think that’s what the 5G architecture and the business models which it means in this case, the artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that get developed on data with these AI partnerships that, that Google has created in Beijing and elsewhere in China. Actually, that contributes to understanding,you know, the intent of consumers and then influencing their shopping habits. But you know, the Chinese Communist Party takes those algorithms and adapts them to not just influencing your shopping patterns, but also everything else you do in your life so that they can suppress the outliers automatically and ensure that they only have people that are following the rules according to the way that the communist party wants. So it’s an incredibly powerful tool in the arms or in the hands of totalitarian regimes. Of course, you know, from Google’s perspective, it’s also a powerful tool for influencing you to buy shoes.
Simone: Interesting. Talking about money, I mean Google turned down tens of billions of dollars of a defense contract in the US, but the project they took on in China, like the Dragon Fly search engine project or in this AI Project the AI Center. I don’t think it’s at least for now, isn’t generating even a fraction of the revenue they can make in the US so I can’t help but thinking that Google is not after money in China, am I wrong?
Robert Spalding: Well, they are after money because if you think about it, if you, if they increased market share in China with regard to “‘Search”” and their advertising clicks go up. You know, as that goes up, they’re looking at tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue each year that they currently don’t have. And so, yes, the defense contracts might be worth a few billions. But ultimately, if you can get into the search market in China, it could potentially be worth hundreds of billions. And of course now that means that you have to get in bed with the Chinese Communist Party and work to prevent the Chinese people from knowing anything about their history or culture and you’re censoring them and helping the Chinese Communist Party oppress them. But when your entire value proposition as a company is based on revenue, because that’s what the laws of America say, it’s a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholder, then you know, that drives everything you do. And oh, by the way, that hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for the company means that the executives and the directors of the company, the people that are really responsible for the strategy of where Google is involved get compensated quite handsomely.
Simone: The state attorney general’s from four dozen states have announced they launched investigations into Google about their market power and corporate behaviors. Do you think Google should be broken up into smaller companies?
Robert Spalding: I think it’s important that people in a free country have control over their data. They get compensated for companies that desire to use that data and they have an ability to opt out from allowing those companies to use their data. Currently, they don’t have that option even when they decide not to, essentially use the Google services. Google is still collecting information on them in android devices. And so, and this has been shown time and time again. Essentially these tech companies want to collect as much data about you as possible so they know all your intentions. And they can sell that data via advertising or just sell the data itself. And so they really, if you want to protect that, if you wanna prevent that, breaking up Google’s not going to do that. You actually have to create a network that secures that data.
Robert Spalding: So identity management, access control and encryption become key features of building an internet and a free society because it allows people to actually know who’s on the network. So we don’t have state actors like the PLA or the Russians creating influence or otherwise stealing people’s data. At the same time, the citizens themselves have the ability to protect themselves from an oppressive government or whether that be the u s government and whether it be any other government. It’s really about creating the same type of digital founding technology that corresponds to our digital or to our physical founding documents.