Illustration by Sam Ward “Great power conflict is back,” declared the organizers of this year’s prestigious Aspen Security Forum, in July. “And the technologies used to win it are changing much faster than we can digest.” In an attempt to try, the conference invited two men squarely at the center of that great power technological conflict onto the stage together. Dressed nearly identically with their top buttons undone was Microsoft president Brad Smith and Rob Joyce, the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity director. Their easy mutual air reflected what has been a very close relationship between Microsoft and the U.S. government over the past two decades. Brad Smith and Rob Joyce listening to a question posed during The Aspen Institute's panel on 'Democracy, Security, and Artificial Intelligence', July 20, 2023. Credit: The Aspen Institute Indeed, perhaps more than any other private tech firm, Microsoft has been embedded in the U.S. government’s digital infrastructure, pSubscribe or login to read the rest. Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.