One of Trump’s top tech advisors hit out at China and Huawei during a speech at Europe’s biggest tech conference — and Huawei was at the event, too

President Trump's CTO Michael Kratsios

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President Trump’s CTO Michael Kratsios
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Web Summit/YouTube

  • Michael Kratsios, chief technology officer of the United States and one of President Donald Trump’s top tech advisers, gave a speech at Web Summit, one of Europe’s largest tech conferences.
  • His talk was full of praise for America, as well as for European values. He called for cooperation between the US and Europe on developing new tech like AI.
  • His speech then turned to China, which he called a repressive regime that spies on its citizens.
  • And he railed against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, too – which, incidentally, had a sizable presence at the event.
  • Some in the crowd did not seem pleased, with someone in the back of the room yelling out Edward Snowden’s name and receiving a burst of applause.
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LISBON, Portugal – Michael Kratsios, the chief technology officer of the United States and one of President Donald Trump’s top tech advisors, spoke at one of Europe’s largest tech conferences to a crowd that was baffled, and at times annoyed, at the content of the talk.

Kratsios, who is not a technologist but did work as a venture capitalist under Trump supporter Peter Thiel, gave a politically-charged talk at the Web Summit in Lisbon on Thursday.

He began by talking about shared cultural values between the US and Europe, making several references to the notion of American exceptionalism to a crowd of Europeans.

“America succeeds because people have an unparalleled freedom to chase their dreams and pursue excellence,” he said at one point. At another, he said that America had “an unrivaled economic system.” He even gave America kudos for “quantum supremacy,” an apparent reference to a technological achievement made by Google.

He also expressed his disdain for the notion of increased regulations on the tech industry, calling them “innovation killing.”

A common theme of Kratsios’ remarks: The US and Europe have similar values, he said, which is all the more reason for them to cooperate on on cutting-edge new technologies like artificial intelligence.

But then, the talk took a dark turn, when Kratsios began to warn about “repressive regimes that don’t share our same values.” He called out one, and only one, such regime by name: China. “The Chinese government has built an advanced authoritarian state by twisting technology to put censorship over free expression and citizen control over empowerment,” he said.

To that point, Kratsios named one and one company: Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that has clashed with the Trump administration since it was banned from doing business with American companies in May.

“And in no case is this more clear than with Huawei. Chinese law compels all Chinese companies, including Huawei, to cooperate with its intelligence and its security services no matter where the company operates,” he said. Huawei has denied such allegations.

The awkward thing about delivering such a speech to this crowd was that Huawei was also an invited guest at Web Summit. Guo Peng, rotating chairman of Huawei, was a featured guest who gave a keynote speech on the power of 5G wireless internet. Other Huawei employees gave half a dozen talks of their own, and the company had a booth at Web Summit and did product demos during the event.

The reception to Kratsios’ remarks was decidedly chilly. At one point, someone in the back of the event room shouted out the name of Edward Snowden, the famous leaker – prompting the one and only burst of applause during his time on stage.

Snowden has accused the US of spying on its citizens, too. And, ironically enough, he was also a star speaker at Web Summit. He live-streamed his appearance from his home in Russia right before the Huawei’s president gave his talk.

Kratsios full talk can be seen via Web Summit Day 3 YouTube video at 2:35:08.