On Thursday, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, testified before the congress of the United States. The event was described as “bruising”, with US politicians under no uncompromising terms demanding that the application, which is used by over 100 million Americans, be banned. Claiming that it is a “national security threat”, such politicians have never in any circumstances been able to demonstrate evidence or proof that China’s government has sought to “access” or “use” the data provided by parent company Bytedance.
Meanwhile, US representative Jamaal Bowman, a rare voice of reason, said the paranoia over the application was being driven by “Xenophobia”. It should be obvious that in targeting TikTok, US politicians are acting in extreme bad faith, and demonstrate their lack of reason, honesty and integrity to represent the best interests of America. As Shou told the hearing: “If you think the US needs a #TikTok ban and not a comprehensive privacy law regulating data brokers, you don’t care about privacy, you just hate that a Chinese company has built a dominant social media platform.”
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When did the United States ever care about data privacy, or the protection of users? The US after all, has laws mandating all major internet companies to comply with surveillance on behalf of the national security agency (NSA) not just at home, but abroad too. Entire multinational programs, such as ECHELON, PRISM and XKeyscore have not just been targeted towards the internet, but all communications comprehensively in coordination with the other “five eyes” countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The US has by and large, never cared about data privacy, or the phenomenon of big social media companies comprehensively re-selling user data for commercial purposes.
If TikTok is banned, they should be prepared to endure the political backlash of doing so from hundreds of millions of young people throughout the world, who will wake up to the completely unreasonable and unhinged manner of US politics, but in no circumstances should they ever be allowed to steal it.
In disregarding such superfluous concerns, the real problem the US has with TikTok is, as noted above, that it is a Chinese innovation. The United States has developed a comprehensive and all-embracing mass hysteria pertaining to all things China, which is deliberately designed to stoke paranoia and fear to legitimate policies of containment in the economic, military and technological spheres. The US has made it clear on many occasions that it wants to control the “future” of the internet, or in other words sustain hegemony over it, and as such has pursued a relentless campaign against any Chinese company it deems to be too successful for its liking.
TikTok is in the firing line not because it has overtly anything wrong, but because it is a Chinese created brand which has attained success on a global scale, which threatens the traditional monopoly of the US Silicon Valley market and its legacy social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter. America’s Playbook to undercut China is not to compete fairly or on equal footing, but to effectively manufacture consent for policies to ban, restrict and undermine them both at home and abroad under false and opportunistic premises, which are protectionism in all but name.
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If it is technology, this usually takes the language of a so-called “national security threat”, which always comes with bogus “concerns” of “espionage” which are never proven with serious evidence, but represented as gospel by the mainstream media. It is for this reason that the US has funded think-tanks such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) that has produced work attempting to manufacture consent for banning TikTok.
But of course, owing to the success of TikTok, and the massive political backlash which would emerge from banning it, the Biden administration is attempting to coerce Bytedance in order to sell its stake in the product under the threat of blacklisting it. This is essentially an act of armed robbery, and is ironically so the same playbook which was used by the Trump administration nearly 3 years previously. It is unacceptable, and in no circumstances should the Chinese government ever allow such a deal to take place. It essentially sends the message that if China produces something truly brilliant, the US should be allowed to “take it” and “make it their own” if its success is allowed to continue. This is gangster behaviour.
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Given this, TikTok must be prepared to stand up against US economic coercion. The hysteria against the application is driven by xenophobia, McCarthyism and rank opportunism from a political class of ghouls, which has collectively lost its mind pertaining to China. They should not be allowed to win on this. If TikTok is banned, they should be prepared to endure the political backlash of doing so from hundreds of millions of young people throughout the world, who will wake up to the completely unreasonable and unhinged manner of US politics, but in no circumstances should they ever be allowed to steal it.
The US persecution of TikTok is a toxic aggregation of lies, paranoia and resentment.
The author is a British political and international relations analyst.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS