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Keith Krach gets Nobel Peace Prize nomination for campaign against Chinese authoritarianism

Keith Krach. (Keith Krach photo/Released)
March 25, 2022

Keith Krach, a Silicon Valley legend and leader of economic policy at the U.S. State Department under former President Donald Trump, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaign to resist communist China’s economic aggression.

Krach, who co-founded the internet software company Ariba and served as the CEO of DocuSign and brought both companies public, was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2019, for Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment. The role allowed Krach to showcase his economic prowess on a global scale when he developed a campaign to challenge China’s authoritarian grasp of 5G technology and computer semiconductors globally. He also helped expose China’s widespread human rights abuses and genocide of its minority Uyghur population, as well as its aggressive posture towards Taiwan.

Krach’s work earned him nominations for a 2022 Nobel Peace Prize from U.S. Naval Academy professor Maochun Yu, conservative radio host and Chapman University law school professor Hugh Hewitt, and Discovery Institute President Steven J. Buri.

This week, Krach told American Military News the Nobel Peace Prize nomination “was a total surprise, and I am truly humbled.”

“It reflects the hard work of my team to deploy the ‘Trust Principle’ doctrine to defend freedom from technological authoritarianism, safeguard global economic security, preserve democracy in Taiwan, and put an end to the Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang,” Krach added. “Trust is something democracies have, and autocracies don’t. Trust was the key to carrying out our mission.”

On Thursday, Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., congratulated Krach on the Nobel Peace Prize nomination, tweeting, “[Keith Krach] is a solid friend of Taiwan. He initiated the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue between Taiwan and the US, and worked tirelessly to build clean and trusted networks of technology. Congratulations!”

Hsiao went on to call Krach “Taiwan’s Number One Friend.”

During his Trump administration tenure, Krach focused his attention on challenging both China’s domestic policies and its actions around the world. Krach’s flagship project as America’s top economic diplomat was the development of the “Clean Network,” a campaign to get dozens of allied nations and telecommunications companies to blacklist Chinese telecom companies like Huawei and counter China’s overall master plan to control 5G communications networks.

In an interview with American Military News, Yu said the Clean Network “mobilized the entire power of the U.S. government and the nations of democracy in the world to basically pledge and create a mechanism through which the critical communications network will be clean of malign actors.” Prior to working as a professor of Chinese military history at the Naval Academy, Yu served as the principal China policy planner and strategist to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“[Krach] understands the moral side of technology. He understands that if we don’t handle the technologies morally, responsibly, the world is going to go to hell,” Yu said. “So we cannot let critical technology fall into the hands of tyranny and dictatorship.”

Krach has also raised attention to the Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, which he has characterized as enablers of China’s domestic surveillance apparatus, including its surveillance operations in Xinjiang, where an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are held in detention camps.

“So when we talk about sanctioning against Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs, against the Kazakhs in the region, we’re talking about basically China’s use of their technology . . . a very sophisticated system of surveillance,” Yu said. “It was Mr. Krach who led the campaign to sanction China’s technology firms, who were responsible for perpetrating this genocide.”

Krach further exposed China’s human rights abuses to the world in July 2020 when he became the first U.S. diplomat to publicly label China’s treatment of the Uyghurs “genocide.” The Trump-era State Department followed up Krach’s actions in January 2021 by officially designating China’s treatment of Uyghur’s “genocide.” The issue continued to be a bipartisan one in U.S. governance as President Joe Biden’s administration stuck by the “genocide” declaration.

Krach’s Nobel supporters also noted how he used his position to provide greater recognition of Taiwanese independence and sovereignty from mainland China.

In May 2020, Krach helped broker a deal with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build the world’s most advanced five-nanometer microchip manufacturing plant in Arizona. The move not only served to prevent China from gaining overwhelming control over the computer chip supply, but also carved Taiwan as an important partner in the Clean Network effort by ensuring the components — that power a variety of technology products from smartphones to 5G base stations — are made in the U.S.

In September 2020, Krach took his support for Taiwan a step further when he traveled to Taiwan to attend the memorial service of former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui. During that visit, Krach became the highest-ranking U.S. State Department official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when the Carter administration cut official diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Following Krach’s visit, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen said at the time, “Under Secretary Keith Krach’s visit in September exemplified the remarkable possibilities of Taiwan-US economic relations.”

Krach’s nomination is multi-faceted in nature. Krach’s nominators are recognizing him for his Clean Network efforts to challenge China’s 5G dominance, strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties, and his solidarity with the Uyghur population. However, he is additionally being recognized for the techniques he pioneered to garner international support. Krach’s nominators say the Clean Network was successful because it employed the “Trust Principle” doctrine, an idea he developed to appeal to partner nations. The Trust Principle entails highlighting areas that benefit the U.S. and its partners, such as integrity, accountability, transparency, property sovereignty, reciprocity and mutual respect for the rule of law.

In a prior interview with American Military News, Krach said his concept for the Trust Principle came about when he first started traveling to other countries during the Trump administration, gathering their feedback about the differences they saw between working with China and the U.S. 

Krach said he’d often ask his counterparts in other countries how they felt about working with China. Krach said the response was often that his counterparts would say “They’re important, they’re our number one or number two trade partner . . . but we don’t trust them.”

Krach said China’s diplomatic doctrine is to “seduce with money and reinforce with intimidation, retaliation and retribution,” a diplomatic method he calls China’s “Power Principle.”

Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense under President Barack Obama said, “The Clean Network pioneered a trust-based model for countering authoritarian aggression across all areas of techno-economic competition.”

“The Clean Network’s defeat of the Chinese Communist Party’s master plan to control 5G communications was the first time a government-lead initiative proved that China’s economic warfare is beatable,” former Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said.

Robert Hormats, Krach’s predecessor under the Obama administration said, “The Clean Network’s success in countering China’s 5G plan serves as a powerful, nonpartisan model for rallying our allies, leveraging the private sector, and amplifying democratic values based on trust.”

“He clearly showed his leadership and made the world much safer for democracy and peace,” Yu told American Military News. 

Since the end of the Trump administration, Krach has remained focused on these issues through his chairmanship of the recently-formed Center For Techn Diplomacy at Purdue University. He also works in a senior advisory capacity to the Biden administration.

For Krach, supporting issues like the Clean Network, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and support for Taiwanese independence has not been free of personal costs. In January 2021, on Biden’s first day in office, China sanctioned both Krach and his family. The sanctions effectively mean Krach can’t travel to China or do business with any companies that also do business with China. It also meant his family members were similarly punished simply for being related to him.

“That’s a badge I’m going to wear with honor,” Krach said of China’s sanctions against him. “And I’m going to act and I’m not going to react to it and I don’t think we should bend the knee to the China bully.”

Yu said Krach is not a conventional candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, but his expertise in technology and his recognition of the moral perils of technology in the hands of autocratic governance provides the Nobel committee with an opportunity to expand their considerations and “to consider a different type of candidate.”

Krach told American Military News he hopes his Nobel Peace Prize nomination will convey the message, “Whether the aggressor is Russia or China, the belligerence military or economic, the vision of trusted collaboration as a security blanket against authoritarian bullying could not be timelier.”

“The world does not belong to the totalitarians. It belongs to those who stand for human freedom and dignity—so long as they remain standing,” Krach added. “It is through reliance on shared values and democratic principles that we will win the battle against authoritarianism. Our greatest hope for peace it to harness the strengths of our democracies—trust, transparency, and meaningful alliances—and use this to advance freedom for the people of the world.”