Western allies must coordinate against the tyrannical uses of artificial intelligence pioneered by the Chinese Communist Party, according to the European Union’s top envoy to the United States.
“Who is going to be setting the standards for AI — people who don’t like liberty and freedom or people who do?” Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis said during a Wednesday reception in Washington. “In other words, will Americans and Europeans get together and work on that or will we miss the opportunity?”
Lambrinidis called for unity just hours after President Trump threatened to impose tariffs on automobiles manufactured in the EU, intensifying an economic dispute that simmered during the negotiations over a “Phase One” trade deal with China. The ambassador, while acknowledging trade “irritants on both sides,” underscored that Chinese human rights abuses present a common problem for the West.
“In China today, in Xinjiang, we see face recognition, voice recognition, and movement recognition being used in a very specific way by a very specific government that has very specific goals,” Lambrinidis said. “And those are to take away freedoms and to repress people because of who they are or what they believe in.”
Those remarks, a reference to the high-tech surveillance state powering China’s repression of Uighur Muslims, are sure to irritate Beijing. The crackdown features mass detention camps that State Department officials have likened to Nazi Germany’s concentration camps, but Chinese communist officials justify them as counterterrorism measures. Beijing dismisses international rebukes as the function of a U.S.-led smear campaign.
“The U.S. attempts to sow discord among various ethnic groups in China undermine prosperity and stability in Xinjiang, and contain China’s growth,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last month. “But its attempt will never succeed.”
Lambrinidis’s comments might bode well for transatlantic cooperation, as the rivalry between the U.S. and China intensifies. European powers have functioned at times like geopolitical swing voters, in part because U.S. trade policies have created a point of concord between European capitals and Beijing. At the same time, China’s authoritarian policies have contributed to Western wariness about the communist regime’s international influence.
“We’re here to build and strengthen the most important relationship in the world,” Lambrinidis said. “And we’re going to succeed.”