It appears that one of the major financial backers of the Arizona-based high-altitude balloon company World View is a Chinese investment company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
World View’s long-time investors include Tencent Holdings, a Chinese tech company that operates the WeChat messaging and social media service that is among the world’s largest. And like other tech companies in China, it has close working ties to the ruling Communist Party in Beijing. Tencent has sought to expand its relations with American tech firms, a move that has raised national security concerns that the Chinese government could be surreptitiously gathering information using American technology.
Hartman [World View CEO] said that isn’t happening, noting the Pentagon’s Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency examined the company last year to ensure its work was secure from foreign interference. The agency cleared World View to handle work for the military.
Tencent has “zero access, zero input and zero control,” Hartman said.
The article at the link is focused mostly on the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Arizona, Mark Kelly, and his ties to World View with its Chinese investor. To my mind the World View links are more important, as World View under Hartman has been selling its high altitude balloons as a way to do military surveillance and reconnaissance at less cost and with more flexibility than with satellites.
Getting investment capital from China means that, despite Hartman’s reassurances, China will likely get access to this technology, either to use in its own country, or maybe even use surreptitiously in the U.S., inside a World View balloon.
As much as I really would like to see World View succeed, as long as they rely on Chinese money they should be denied any military contracts. And Kelly’s involvement as a co-founder of the company, without raising this issue himself, does suggest his focus on protecting the U.S. from foreign influence and spying is quite weak. It does indicate that he can be brought, from the highest bidder, whoever that bidder might be.
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