US Congress Expresses Concern Over AI Company’s Alleged Ties to Chinese Entities
Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the AI specialist company G42 is under scrutiny from members of the US Congress. It is suspected of having ties to Chinese companies and entities on the US government blacklist. Lawmakers are also concerned about the company’s relationships with OpenAI, Microsoft, and Dell.
If Europe is interested in the ties between OpenAI and Microsoft, representatives of the US Congress are more concerned about the relationships between these two companies and the UAE-based AI company G42. Indeed, it is said to be affiliated with Chinese entities involved in surveillance and human rights violations, some of which have been blacklisted by the US government. In an open letter to Gina Raimondo, the Secretary of Commerce, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), chair of the House of Representatives’ Special Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, expressed concerns about G42’s extensive connections with Chinese military and intelligence services and other public entities.
G42 is headed and chaired by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, National Security Advisor of the United Arab Emirates and younger brother of the country’s leader, and CEO Peng Xiao. The company is expected to face commercial restrictions due to its questionable affiliations, particularly the “active relationships” it maintains with Huawei, the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), and others whose behavior supports China’s intelligence efforts, as well as the links between Peng Xiao and alleged human rights violations, according to the letter.
Due to their alleged involvement in surveillance activities on behalf of the Chinese government, Huawei and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) are already on the US government blacklist. “Without new restrictions against G42, the company’s extensive capabilities will provide BGI with critical analysis capabilities to exploit the data it has collected from US citizens, including millions of pregnant women,” the letter read. “Similarly, export controls against Huawei will be further undermined if Huawei can access and/or acquire advanced hardware and cloud services through partners like G42.”
Past Restriction Concerns
Additionally, G42’s CEO is also the Executive Director of Pegasus Technology, a subsidiary of DarkMatter. It develops spyware and surveillance tools that governments can use to illegally spy on and target dissenters, journalists, politicians, and US companies. “Many tools developed by Pegasus and DarkMatter are subject to export controls,” noted Mike Gallagher, and former American employees of DarkMatter have been fined for violating the Arms Export Control Act. “While the US has taken action against DarkMatter, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the US Department of Commerce has not imposed restrictions on DarkMatter, G42, or their affiliated companies,” the lawmaker wrote. “Without similar measures, controlled export technologies, developed and sold by companies like Microsoft, Dell, and OpenAI, who have relations with G42 and its subsidiaries, could be diverted to Chinese-based affiliates that support surveillance and human rights violations,” the representative explained.
The letter mentions other questionable links between G42 and individuals associated with Chinese intelligence services, proving that an investigation and potential commercial restrictions are necessary. This includes Song-Chun Zhu, former director of a center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who is now a leading collaborator of DarkMatter in AI research. “Mr. Zhu has worked on research funded by the US Department of Defense at UCLA, while also participating in the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘Thousand Talents’ plan, which requires its participants to acquire research and technologies for the Chinese government,” observed Mike Gallagher. He left UCLA in 2020 to return to China where he has since established a new AI lab with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.
Crackdown on China Trade
G42 did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but issued a statement refuting the Congress’s allegations. “As an international business, G42 has over time established a global network of partnerships, including with Chinese companies. Such engagements are common practice among global technology companies,” it explained. Adding, “In the field of advanced technologies, we have since 2022 pursued a business strategy to fully align ourselves with our US partners and not engage with Chinese companies.”
The Biden administration has cracked down severely on trade with China, particularly with companies likely to provide advanced technologies to advance the country’s military and intelligence activities. Many semiconductor companies have borne the brunt of these measures, including Nvidia, which is currently working to launch a series of chips specific to China after some of its microprocessors were made ineligible for export to the region due to imposed restrictions. G42 positions itself as a leader in AI research and is interested in cloud, data centers, and other technologies to achieve its goals. Key investors are Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala and the US private investment company Silver Lake. In addition to technological agreements with Dell, OpenAI, and Microsoft, which recently unveiled a partnership with G42 for its Cloud for Sovereignty product, the company has also struck a deal with Cerebras Systems, a specialist in AI chips and systems.