Tech Transparency Project Uncovers New Ties Between Eric Schmidt and Chinese AI Industry


Contact: Michael Clauw,, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a non-profit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), published a report concerning the close ties between former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and the Chinese AI industry—an industry that Schmidt has characterized as a strategic threat to the U.S. Evidence reviewed by TTP shows that while Schmidt was leading the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), his private foundation put nearly $17 million into an investment fund that feeds into Hillhouse Capital, a Chinese private equity group that has an extensive portfolio of AI companies. Previously undisclosed emails also suggest that Schmidt may have improperly used NSCAI U.S. government staff to identify people in China’s AI industry he could meet with “in a personal capacity” on a trip to China. While conducting this business in private, Schmidt publicly stoked fear about China’s AI capabilities through NSCAI reports, testimony to lawmakers, and official statements.

Read the report.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Eric Schmidt is an unelected billionaire who has been trusted with an immense amount of power over AI policy. Lawmakers should be concerned with his personal investments in China’s AI industry, especially because he’s spent years portraying it as a threat to America’s strategic interests.”

In 2019, Schmidt warned that China was using AI to advance an “autocratic agenda.” That same year, his foundation invested nearly $17 million in a fund called Gaoling Feeder, which invests in a master fund operated by Hillhouse Capital. The master fund includes several Chinese companies that have developed AI products, including facial recognition technology. At the time of Schmidt’s investment, Hillhouse had a well-known association with Chinese AI, having partnered with the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences on a $150 million AI fund in 2016. The Schmidt investment adds to growing revelations about Schmidt’s China-related AI investments, which appear to be at odds with his rhetoric about the dangers of China’s AI ambitions.

Schmidt also appears to have used U.S. government resources to help set up personal meetings with key AI players in China. In September 2019, a staffer at Schmidt’s private venture fund asked an NSCAI employee to identify people Schmidt could meet with “in a personal capacity” during an upcoming trip to China, according to emails obtained by TTP through a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails do not reveal what recommendations NSCAI employees made, but Schmidt did meet with prominent figures from China’s AI industry during the trip. As head of NSCAI at the time, Schmidt was a Special Government Employee barred from using government staff time for personal purposes or using public office for private gain.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Eric Schmidt seems to be pursuing a two-track approach to China’s AI industry—waving dire warnings about China’s AI in front of lawmakers while making investments that show a much cozier relationship with the Chinese AI industry. That raises questions about Schmidt’s motivations and business interests.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.