Although I doubt that Carly Fiorina has as much of a chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination as even Donald Trump, her remarks today on America’s China policy deserve attention. For she unwittingly highlighted – in unwittingly personal terms – one of the biggest blind spots in America’s approach to the PRC: its long-time “see no evil” record on utterly reckless and apparently voluntary corporate transfers of defense-related technologies to China.
As I’ve repeatedly written, the United States will never satisfactorily deal with Beijing’s growing military might, its determination to become East Asia’s kingpin, or its cyber-hacking, as long as it continues permitting U.S.-owned companies to set up research labs in China, share much of their best knowhow with Chinese partners (all of which are controlled one way or another by the Chinese government), and train legions of Chinese scientists and technicians. And it’s a lesson that Fiorina evidently needs to learn, too.
In an interview with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd today, Fiorina made what’s by now an increasingly standard Republican and conservative call for a tougher policy towards these Chinese provocations. Specifically, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO stated “We ought to make it very painful for the Chinese to be aggressive in cyber-warfare.” She added that she would “begin to provide our allies in the South China Sea with some of the technology they’ve asked for. Be very aggressive about insuring that China does not control the South China trade route.”
But what Fiorina didn’t mention, and what Todd apparently didn’t know about, was HP’s own record of feeding this beast while she ran that tech giant. According to Hewlett-Packard itself, under Fiorina’s leadership (mid-1999 to early 2005) alone:
“In 2002, HP instituted the Software Solutions Center in Shanghai, which is dedicated to developing enterprise-class solutions for customers in China and throughout Asia Pacific.
“In 2004, also in Shanghai, HP established the Industry Innovation Center with Intel to showcase technology and business solutions for the finance, manufacturing, public sector and telecommunications industries.
“HP Labs China was established in 2005 to collaborate with public and private sectors to research and develop future information management systems.”
And a year later, the company “developed the HP IT R&D Center in Shanghai,” which presumably was planned during Fiorina’s tenure.
HP is hardly the only American company that has bolstered China’s innovation capabilities, or even the worst offender. But it clearly has been part of the problem. Here’s hoping that reporters – and voters – start asking Fiorina whether she’s going to pursue a genuinely comprehensive, strategic China policy, or whether she’s just another pseudo-hawk.