Peter Thiel is “pro-crypto” and “pro-Bitcoin maximalist,” but he also thinks the cryptocurrency may be undermining America.
Thiel, the venture capitalist and conservative political donor, urged the U.S. government to consider tighter regulations on cryptocurrencies in an appearance on Tuesday. The statements seemed to represent a change of heart for Thiel, who is a major investor in virtual currency ventures as well as in cryptocurriences themselves.
“I do wonder whether at this point, Bitcoin should also be thought [of] in part as a Chinese financial weapon against the U.S.,” Thiel said during an appearance at a virtual event held for members of the Richard Nixon Foundation. “It threatens fiat money, but it especially threatens the U.S. dollar.” He added: “[If] China’s long Bitcoin, perhaps from a geopolitical perspective, the U.S. should be asking some tougher questions about exactly how that works.”
Thiel was joined by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. The conversation between Thiel, who has frequently criticized American companies that do business with Beijing, and two hawkish former members of the Trump administration, was largely focused on U.S.-China relations. It was moderated by Hugh Hewitt, the talk radio host and the chief executive of the Nixon Foundation. Forbes previously reported some details of the event.
During the talk, Thiel expanded upon previous criticism of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which he accused of working against American interests in a 2019 speech. On Tuesday, he added that he’d pressed employees in the company’s artificial intelligence division about whether their technology was being used in China’s Xinjiang region, where the U.S. says the country has detained ethnic Uyghurs in internment camps, which some U.S. officials have said amounts to genocide. The answer, Thiel said, was, “Well, we don’t really know—and don’t ask any questions.” Thiel continued: “You have this almost magical thinking that by pretending that everything is fine, that’s how you engage and have a conversation.”
China has denied mistreatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang. In a statement, Google said it doesn’t work with the Chinese military and is “proud to continue our long history of work with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.”
Thiel, who left Silicon Valley in dramatic fashion in 2018, complaining that it had become a “one-party state,” didn’t confine himself to criticizing Google. He suggested that the U.S. scrutiny of American tech companies should also include Apple Inc., noting that the company makes most of its devices in China, where labor standards are laxer than in the U.S. and Europe. “Apple is probably the one [tech company] that’s structurally a real problem” for U.S. interests, he said. “Apple is the one that has real synergies with China.”
Thiel also suggested that the U.S. should follow India in banning TikTok, the social app owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., and which he called “this sort of incredible exfiltration of data about people.” Thiel noted that if it were banned, TikTok would likely be replaced by similar apps, as has happened in India. “I don’t think it was like a tremendous, tremendous loss” in India, he said.
The TikTok comments…