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Wednesday, September 09, 2020, 16:08
TikTok ban shows US desperate to maintain hegemony
By Mei Ao
Wednesday, September 09, 2020, 16:08 By Mei Ao

TikTok, a video-sharing app owned by ByteDance, has filed a lawsuit against the United States administration for banning the app in the US. The US president issued two Executive Orders recently banning TikTok. The first order on Aug 6 banned the use of TikTok-barring ByteDance from doing business with US companies from Spet 20, and the second, on Aug 14, gave ByteDance 90 days to divest its TikTok business in the US within 90 days.

TikTok has argued that the Executive Orders violate the due process and will harm the interests of TikTok's employees in the US. It has also pointed out that "the administration's decisions were heavily politicized".

The order banning TikTok is based on the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act which authorizes the US president to regulate economic transactions after declaring a national emergency in response to an unusual, extraordinary threat to the country. This act was also invoked to impose sanctions on Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

There are reasons to believe that the orders were issued without due process. When claiming TikTok collects information from users and shares them with the Chinese government, the Executive Orders used vague terms such as "reportedly" or "potentially" to back its allegation.

Different countries have different types of legislation for regulating data collection by internet companies. Social media platforms and apps such as TikTok, Facebook and YouTube inform users that they are collecting some of their personal information and how they would use them, which is the accepted and legal way of collecting personal data. More important, apps like TikTok and WeChat, a social media app owned by Tencent, abide by rules and do not abuse users' data.

It is due to TikTok's complex algorithms, it has become highly popular among users. Like other popular apps, including Facebook and Twitter, TikTok does store individuals' personal data. But it does not misuse the data to make profits or fulfill any political agenda. So the White House's claim that ByteDance shares the collected data with the Chinese government is baseless.

The US has targeted China's high-tech sector because it fears that China, thanks to the rapid development of its high-tech industry, could replace it as the leading global high-tech power. The US targets any country, even its allies, and company that develops fast enough-and thus, according to the US-can pose a challenge to US dominance in the high-tech and other critical sectors.

For instance, in 1989, the US launched investigations under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974 against Japan and its high-tech enterprises, which dealt a deadly blow to the Japanese economy. Worse, the US resorts to double standard when it comes to American enterprises. For example, it has said the European Union's investigations into Facebook, Google and Apple are meant to curb innovation. But it goes on to ban apps and companies that promote innovation.

The US wants to maintain its global hegemony by remaining the leader in high-tech, and that's why it has targeted TikTok. After all, the White House's "America first" strategy is essentially a hegemonic policy-a transformation from traditional regime hegemony to power hegemony, which reflects the decline of American power.

As of April, ByteDance's Douyin and its international version TikTok were the world's most-downloaded (more than 2 billion downloads) non-game apps. Which could explain why the US administration made another move that violates global market rules.

The US administration has been violating international market rules, or manipulating them to fulfill its narrow political goals. In fact, the US has targeted not only TikTok and WeChat and other Chinese apps, but also all Chinese high-tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

The ban on TikTok has raised concerns about the US administration's commitment to free global trade and investment. In fact, the US has damaged its reputation as an open and fair market for foreign investment. So other countries need to work together and deepen cooperation to counter an increasingly self-centric and selfish US.

The author is an associate professor and director of the private international law office at the School of International Law, Southwest University of Political Science& Law. 

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.


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