AI giants tied to China under investigation
A US congressional committee has asked the Commerce Department to look into whether a giant technology company controlled by the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates should be placed under trade sanctions because of its ties to China.
The company, G42, specializes in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, and is overseen by Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, the emirate's national security adviser and younger brother of the country's ruler.
It has signed recent agreements with major US technology companies, including Microsoft, Dell and OpenAI. Cerebrus, a Silicon Valley chip firm, is building a supercomputer for the G42 to create and power AI products.
But in a letter sent to the Commerce Department on Wednesday, the Chinese Communist Party's bipartisan House Select Committee on Security said the company has large ties to China's “military, intelligence services and state-owned entities,” according to a copy obtained by The New York. Works on scale. Times. The letter was signed by the committee's chairman, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.
Biden administration officials have privately expressed similar concerns about the company, fearing it could be a vehicle through which advanced American technology could be delivered to Chinese companies or the government, as New York The Times reported in November.
Although the emirate is a US partner and one of the largest buyers of US arms, it has sought military and economic cooperation with China. This has raised concerns among US officials, who frequently visit the small Persian Gulf country to discuss security issues. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with emirate leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi during a regional tour focused on the Israel-Gaza war, and the two “underscored the importance of the strategic partnership,” the State Department said.
The congressional committee said it had reviewed documents that showed the G42's chief executive, Peng Xiao, “operated and affiliated with an extensive network of companies that materially support the Chinese military”. technological advancement Also violation of human rights.
The committee asked the Commerce Department to consider imposing export controls on G42 and 13 companies, most of which are based in China, that are owned or affiliated with it.
The controls will prevent American businesses from selling products to Emirati and Chinese companies without a license issued by the department. The committee said it is giving the Commerce Department until February 2 to take action or explain to lawmakers why it is not doing so.
The committee said five Chinese companies are affiliated with Emirati firm Darkmatter, which developed spyware and surveillance tools. The letter did not explain how the Chinese affiliates, also known as Darkmatter, were connected to the Emirati firm.
The CIA has a classified profile of Mr. Xiao. According to public documents and reports, he was born in China and attended college and graduate school in the United States before working at MicroStrategy, a Virginia technology company, which he left in 2014. At some point, he obtained American citizenship but renounced it in favor of Emirati citizenship. A representative for G42 confirmed that her Chinese name is 肖鹏, which appears on the website of the Chinese Embassy in the Emirates.
A spokesman for the committee declined to disclose the documents it had reviewed.
In a statement, a Commerce Department spokesperson said, “We have received the letter and will respond through appropriate channels.”
G42 representatives did not respond to an email requesting comment.
According to a Times investigation, US intelligence officials had raised concerns about the company's ties to China in a series of classified assessments. The report also said that top Biden administration officials had pressured their Emirati counterparts to sever the company's ties with China.
Those relationships include partnerships with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and BGI Genomics, which owns companies that the Commerce Department placed on a sanctions list last March. Some US officials say they are concerned that G42 is helping BGI collect genomic data on millions of Americans and others around the world.
G42 invested $100 million in TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance last year and has also invested in other Chinese companies. Its $10 billion investment fund, G42X, has a Shanghai office. whose new leader is Jason HuFormer executive of JD.com, a large Chinese e-commerce company.
The Biden administration has enacted trade policies to prevent China from obtaining advanced chips and other equipment that would help it overtake the United States in developing emerging technologies, including AI and quantum computing.
When The Times contacted G42 for a November article about the administration's concerns, Talal Al Qassi, a senior executive, said the company sought to “remain in full compliance” with U.S. government regulations. He said the company is talking to American companies about replacing its technology infrastructure, which also includes Chinese hardware.
After the article was published, Mr Gallagher said in a briefing with journalists on 29 November that “the trend line of where the UAE is going in its natural relations with China is rapidly moving in the wrong direction.”
Emirati sovereign wealth fund Mubadala has an investment in G42 silver LakeAn American private equity firm.
G42 has declined multiple requests from The Times to interview Mr. Xiao. The Financial Times published an interview with Mr. Xiao on December 7 in which he said that G42 was moving toward cutting ties with Chinese hardware suppliers such as Huawei in favor of American companies.
But the G42 is strongly linked to Chinese business figures and companies. The Wire China reported Corporate records last month revealed that G42's chief investment officer, Zhang Xiaoping, was also the chief operating officer of Yitu Technology, a Chinese company. Biden administration put yitu on ban list In 2021 to develop surveillance technology used by Chinese authorities in the repression of ethnic Uyghur Muslims.
Mr. Zhang runs two G42 companies in China: G42 Shanghai Investment and Beijing Qingzi Future Network Technology.
Additionally, the report said the Beijing firm's general manager, Li Xiaoxu, is also the supervisor of Pegasus Technology China, which was launched in 2015 by Pegasus, an Emirati firm where Mr Xiao was chief executive before being named in the same role. Were. On G42.
These three Chinese companies are among the 13 companies identified by the Congress committee.
In 2019, an Emirati firm led by Mr. Xiao was involved in the launch and operation of ToTok, a social media app that US intelligence agencies assessed was a spying tool used by the Emirati government to monitor the conversations of its users. Used to track. The data collected from the app, according to a US intelligence assessment, was stored by an Emirati firm called Pax AI, run by Mr Xiao.
Chinese engineers helped create the app, and a forensic researcher examining the app in 2019 told The Times that it appeared to be a copy of YeeCall, a Chinese messaging app offering free video calls, available in English and It was slightly adapted for an Arabic-speaking audience. ,
The congressional letter lists YeeCall as one of the companies the Commerce Department should investigate.
And with regard to darkmatter firms linked to G42 and Mr. Peng, the letter said the network cooperates with Song-Chun Zhu, a leading researcher. Beijing Institute for General Artificial IntelligenceA top state supported scientific institute.
An Emirate-based company owned by G42 and named in the congressional letter as Presight AI sells surveillance technology to police companies around the world. In March, a New York Times reporter investigated its performance at a police conference in Dubai and found signs of closer ties to China.
The company advertised itself as the Emirati version of American data company Palantir. A video display presented a glorified version of the company's capabilities, in which big data analytics foiled a drone attack on an office tower. A separate demonstration showed off the company's physical surveillance capabilities: a software platform used cameras and facial recognition technology to keep track of people at a conference.
The software, which was loaded in Chinese before being translated into English, had many characteristics of Chinese police software. Although a company representative stressed that it was made in the Emirates, it had several features specifically for the Chinese market, such as Internet café monitoring and special labels for phone tracking that are not often seen outside China. Are.
A representative of Presite AI at the police conference said the surveillance software has already been sold to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, and is also being used by the Emirates government.