Keith Krach Interview with Voice of America — Beating China Inc.
May 5, 2021 Source: Voice of America | By: Daphne Dung-Ning Fan
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Mr. Keith Krach, welcome to Voice of America.
Keith Krach: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Daphne. I really appreciate it.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Ok, Mr. Krach, you are a Silicon Valley veteran and now a former State Department official. What was your private sector experience like, especially with China? And why did you decide to serve in government?
Keith Krach: Well, my first experience in China was back in nineteen eighty one when I first went over there, right when I joined General Motors. And you know, I’m a lover of Chinese history and the Chinese culture. I’ve been going there for many, many years, obviously on business. But the last trip I took before I went into the government when I was running DocuSign, it was a listening trip because we were deciding whether we want to enter the country of China. But at that particular time, I could see things had changed and I could see how aggressive General Secretary Xi was. And that’s what really gave me some concern. And I really didn’t know anybody in Washington except one high level official who I had worked with before. And and I wanted to see if they really understood what was going on. And they obviously did. And then they asked me, they said, “Have you ever thought about serving your country?” And I said, “That would be that’s a dream I never knew I had. I’d be honored.” They said, “Can you move?” I can I go. “I can move anywhere in the world.” So it’s been a great privilege. And my mission was to develop and operationalize a global economic security strategy that would maximize global economic security and national security for countries everywhere and to drive economic growth as well as to combat China’s economic aggression.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: And also, when you traveled to Germany last year, you went viral on social media when you said I quote here, “Mr. Xi tear down China’s Great Firewall.” Why did you say that in Berlin? And what was your overall China strategy when you were Under Secretary at State Department?
Keith Krach: Well, I was right at the Berlin Wall and it really reminded me and I drew the analogy between how the Berlin Wall separated the German people just as China’s great one-way firewall separates the Chinese people from the truth. And that’s when I asked General Secretary Xi to tear down that firewall because all the data comes in, but none goes out and all the propaganda goes out. But the truth does not come in. And so if you look at my strategy at the State Department, and I said this in my Senate confirmation meeting, it’s really to harness three of United States’ biggest competitive advantages. That is, strengthen our relationship with our allies and our friends, leverage the innovation and resources of the private sector, and amplify the moral high ground of democratic values.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: OK, and you are also the highest ranking State Department official who visits Taiwan since 1979. Could you please share with us more detail of that important trip from your perspective?
Keith Krach: Yeah, obviously it was a great honor and it really fit in with our overall strategy. The purpose of my trip was to go to President Lee’s memorial service. We would call him the George Washington of Taiwan. I was greeted with 40 fighters and bombers, but it really gave me a chance to interact with a lot of the business people that I’ve interacted with before over the years from the private sector, but also spent a lot of time with the government. And I had a great. Or with President Tsai, and it was really there that we came up with the it was a catalyst for economic prosperity partnership between Taiwan and the United States.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: You said that you interacted with the businessmen there in Taiwan, that we know that you also helped foster strong economic ties between U.S. And Taiwan, especially including a $12 billion deal with Taiwan Semiconductor manufacturing company TSMC. That’s a big deal.
Keith Krach: It was the biggest onshoring in US history, and TSMC is perhaps the most important global company to the United States’ national security. And it was a great experience. We actually accomplished that in two weeks. And they also brought their ecosystem. And I really think this really help strengthen the ties between the United States and Taiwan. And it’s so important because Taiwan in the region is a role model for democracy and capitalism. Actually, they are for the entire world.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: You also mentioned that the PLA sent nearly 20 fighter jets and bomber when you were there. What was your reaction to that?
Keith Krach: You know, my reaction was, “Why are you doing that?” I mean, I think that, you know, they wanted to show some force. I was going over there to honor a great person. I think it’s classic for the Chinese Communist Party.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Ok, and then we know that the tensions across the Taiwan Strait actually have risen considerably over recent months. And now we hear a lot of people in Washington, D.C. talking about what could happen if China tried to invade Taiwan. How worried are you that China will have a war with US, with Taiwan?
Keith Krach: Yeah, well, I think that’s a possibility. And, you know, that was a big purpose of forming that Economic Prosperity Partnership. And then a month later, we signed a science and technology agreement, which usually takes a year to get done in the United States government and really laid the groundwork in terms of more trade and investment from the United States and that also draws investment into Taiwan from other nations, from our allies. And I think that’s really important when it comes to defending Taiwan.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: OK, and you also recently co-wrote an op ed in Newsweek in which you said, “The moral imperative to end the Xinjiang genocide is one of the most unifying and bipartisan issue of our time. You also calling for American business to help stop the genocide in Xinjiang. So could you please share your thoughts on what how they can help and why taking action on this issue is so important to you?
Keith Krach: Well, first of all, it’s punishable genocide. These are some of the worst crimes of humanity that are going on in the world. So to call that out, I think is very important. And I think it exemplifies the General Secretary Xi’s, three C’s doctrine of concealment, cooperation and coercion. Now it’s grown into genocide. And and what I called on for people around the world is to join together and to do something about that. I wrote a letter to all United States CEOs about this, about in terms of making sure their supply chains are clean without the slave labor from Xinjiang. I also wrote one to all the university governing boards. I wrote to all the civil societies. But I think at the end of the day, for the American citizen, the way to really speak the loudest is to ring the cash register over there in China because there are so many companies that enable, Chinese companies that enable, the surveillance state and the atrocities in Xinjiang. And so the whole point is to divest of these companies, don’t invest in these companies.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: You’re a successful businessman. But for the businesses around the world, sometimes, you know, standing up to China’s human rights abuses is easier said than done. Like the Xinjiang is one example. So you are chairman and CEO of tech companies, including Ariba and DocuSign. I believe that you are very well aware of those difficult decisions companies have to make between profits and ethics when doing business with China. What would you say to those leaders of multinational companies who constantly have to make those difficult decisions?
Keith Krach: Yeah, well, I think it’s a question of your principles or profit, and the way I was raised, where I come from, your integrity is everything at the end of the day. And if you don’t have that, you have absolutely nothing. And so, yes, you do have to make those decisions. And as a CEO or chairman of the board, you get paid to make those tough decisions. And they also have a moral responsibility and a fiduciary duty to make sure that whoever they do business with is upstanding and particularly when you’re talking about an issue as big as genocide.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Right. One last one of the most common metaphor of US and China relations is that we’re running a marathon. But who is the winner at last? So let’s talk about US and China are engaging in a very fierce competition over the technological supremacy. As a prominent leader in the tech industry. How do you view this competition and what kind of action should US take right now to ensure it’s not on the losing side of this US-China tech war?
Keith Krach: Yeah, well, I think really three fundamental aspects to it. The first one is to turbo-charge our own economic competitiveness. The second is to safeguard our assets, our strategic assets, our technology, which has been so much intellectual property theft through the years. The third one is to form an alliance of democracies, companies, civil society that operate by a set of trust principles for all areas of economic collaboration. Because if you think of what the CCP has done, they’ve used those trust principles like integrity, transparency, reciprocity, respect for rule of law, respect for the planet, respect for property of all kinds to their economic advantage. So what we did with the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies is we actually used it against them. And we said, if you don’t abide by those trust principles, we’re not going to do business with you.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: And Mr. Krach, your team at the State Department also developed a 5G network that turned the tide against Huawei. How important is that 5G clean network? Will you explain?
Keith Krach: Well, I think that’s really important because it defeated China Inc.’s master plan to own 5G communications. And 5G communications is just not your phone. This is about utility grids. This is about Internet of Things, manufacturing processes, all kinds of sanitation systems. So this is a really important thing. But what it really was, is it also showed that China Inc was beatable and exposed their biggest weakness, which was lack of trust. But the other two objectives was to create a model for competing with China, as well as to provide a beachhead for many other areas of economic collaboration, whether it’s clean infrastructure, with clean finance and clean energy, other areas of technology.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: And also earlier this year, you and the former secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo, and also 26 others were labeled as anti-China politician. And you were on number three on the list to be sanctioned by China, which means that you and your immediate family member are prohibited from entering China. And companies and institutions associate with you are also restricted from doing business with China. What is your response to China’s sanction on you, your business and your family?
Keith Krach: Well, I got sanctioned because I did my job and I got results. It’s inconsequential to me and my family. You know, it really doesn’t matter. Maybe you know, maybe it’s a Medal of Honor, but why should I react when I can act and I am not going to bend a knee to General Secretary Xi and I don’t think anybody else should as well. – add
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: US-China relationship is complicated, it’s like love-hate and also cooperation at the same time with competition. What should US do about it right now? Because now it is at the lowest point in decades. And what’s your hope for the future of this relationship?
Keith Krach: Yeah, well, I always remain hopeful for sure. But but I also think that General Secretary Xi has really amped up the aggression. And even though they say, hey, a win win relationship, it’s not. It’s a zero-sum game. And I think the world has woken up to the truth about his three C’s doctrine of concealment, cooperation and coercion. And the world now understands that the pandemic is a result of the concealment of the virus. I mean, they shut everything down. People lost their lives, all kinds of things like that. And I think people can see the cooption in Hong Kong has resulted in evisceration of its citizens’ freedoms. And now the coercion in Xinjiang has grown to genocide and the world doesn’t like it. It’s the most unifying, bipartisan issue of our time. And I think if you look at that, you know, the eight hundred pound elephant in the room is the CCP’s retaliation and intimidation. And this is why the clean network was so successful, because it represents a security blanket. There’s strength in numbers and there’s power and unity in solidarity. And I think the world’s woken up now.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Mr. Krach, if you could send a message to Xi Jin Ping, what would it be?
Keith Krach: I guess I would say, the world does not trust you. And you sanctioned me, it has no effect on me. But it sends a message to the Biden administration, sends a message to business leaders all over the world that you’re not to be trusted and there’s consequences for that.
Daphne Dung-Ning Fan: Mr. Krach, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you.
Keith Krach: Thank you, Daphne.