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Peter Thiel calls Apple's relationship with China a 'real problem'

Tech investor Peter Thiel on Tuesday criticized Apple and Google for cozying up to China, saying Apple's supply chain is a cause for concern.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Richard Nixon Foundation, Thiel suggested Apple was unlikely to confront China on key issues due to its reliance on manufacturers in the country, reports CNBC.

Apple is probably the one that's structurally a real problem, because the whole iPhone supply chain gets made from China," Thiel said. "Apple is one that has real synergies with China."

Apple partners Foxconn, Pegatron and other major device manufacturers operate out of China, leveraging a relatively cheap labor force and advanced production facilities to build the tech giant's product range. Thiel called on the U.S. to apply a "lot of pressure" on Apple because of its labor supply chain, the report said.

What, exactly, Thiel and company hope to gain from heightened scrutiny of Apple's Chinese business is unclear and the matter was not fleshed out in Wednesday's report. The U.S. government has, however, tangled with the East Asian nation for decades, from the recent trade war to restrictions on foreign business and Chinese hacks of important infrastructure and commerce systems. More recently, China has been at the center of an international imbroglio over Uighur detainment and forced labor.

As for Google, Thiel faulted the company's willingness to work with Chinese universities on artificial intelligence projects.

"Since everything in China is a civilian-military fusion, Google was effectively working with the Chinese military, not with the American military," Thiel said. He went on to cite employees within Google who allegedly said the company worked with China because "they figured they might as well give the technology out the front door, because if they didn't give it - it would get stolen anyway."

Google previously denied any cooperation with China's military.

Thiel is no stranger to controversy. An outspoken member of the tech community, the investor regularly offers conservative-leaning commentary on hot-button topics and has in the past immersed himself in political intrigue. A backer of defense contractor Palantir, Thiel was an advisor of former President Donald Trump who helped the administration interface with tech entities.

The venture capitalist rarely name-drops the iPhone maker in public statements, but once prognosticated that the "age of Apple" was at its end . That was four years ago.