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US general has a question for Google: Why will you work with China but not us?

Google China search engine

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to testify before Congress next week, and he’ll potentially face questions on a number of thorny issues ranging from perceived search engine bias to Google’s interest in developing a search engine for use in China that would be heavily censored there.

To that latter point, a top US general went public today with what sounds like a pretty reasonable question for the tech giant. It boiled down to, essentially, why are you guys willing to work with China, but have such a problem working with your own country’s military?

Speaking at an event today, Marine General Joseph Dunbar said it seems “inexplicable” to him that Google would distance itself from the Pentagon at the same time as its top executives clearly have an interest in developing a greater presence in China. “We are the good guys, and it’s inexplicable to me that we would make compromises in order to advance our business interests in China where we know that freedoms are restrained, where we know that China will take intellectual property from companies,” said Dunford, who’s also the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He also added, according to various reports of his comments: “I’m not sure that people at Google will enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China.” 

Dunbar’s comments echoed remarks along these same lines also today from US Sen. Mark Warner of Virgina, who spoke at an event hosted by the Center for New American Security. “It’s pretty amazing to me that Google is actually looking to work with China to develop a censored version of its search engine in China,” Warner said. “Today China’s cyber and censorship infrastructure is the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world. China is now exporting both its technology and its cyber-sovereignty doctrine to countries like Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Pakistan.”

We’ll see how Pichai handles these criticisms next week. He’s set to appear before lawmakers Dec. 11.

All of this comes against the backdrop of Google’s reported work on a search engine for Chinese users that would be censored so as to pass muster with the repressive authorities there. Meanwhile, Google earlier this year backed out of a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the US Defense Department after employees internally revolted over working with the military to do things like help them analyze aerial drone imagery.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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