Yesterday’s Big Tech hearing was full of surprises.
After four months of virtual conferences, it was reassuring to see that not even Silicon Valley’s Tech titans have been spared from technical difficulties.
Their background decors also didn’t fail to entertain. Pichai’s tasteful minimalism stood in sharp contrast to the Zuck’s sterile white wooden background.
Yet, what stood out most was the subtle update to their narrative. At a time when American patriotism is not trading at a premium in Silicon Valley, the Four doubled-down on their American heritage.
Bezos emphasised Amazon being the largest US employer. Cook stressed being “uniquely American”. Yet the Zuck went the farthest.
This became obvious when Members of Congress pressed them on whether they believed that China was stealing technology from US firms.
Cook, Pichai, and Bezos all denied. Only Zuckerberg unequivocally stated that China is stealing American technology.
From there on, Zuckerberg positioned Facebook as a “proudly American company”. A company that upholds “the values of democracy, competition, inclusion, and free expression” – values that the American economy was built on.
Zuckerberg’s strategy marks a sharp U-Turn from five years ago when he held a speech in Mandarin, praising Chinese innovation and covertly hoping for an entrance into the Chinese market.
Now that this hope seems to have been lost for good, Zuckerberg not only seemed to have given up on China, but rather decided to use China as an anti-anti-trust argument.
He confronted representatives with a dystopian bifurcation: keep your fingers off us and watch us conduct business-as-usual– or break us up and watch an aggressive China, whose censorship practices are at odds with liberal values, take over the internet. And then the world.
After yesterday’s patriotic appeal, policymakers will have difficult choices to make. Both China and Big Tech enjoy bipartisan scrutiny in the US. Yet whom will they take on first?