TikTok’s future in the United States is hanging by a thread. On Friday, Donald Trump said that he would ban TikTok in the U.S. as early as Saturday. Although he did not do so, the threat added pressure to rumored discussions between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and Microsoft, making it very difficult for ByteDance to try to retain any shares in the business or negotiate for a higher selling price.
Without a doubt, this is a collaborative effort between the U.S. government and tech companies to hunt down TikTok and seize its assets. National security, at least in a narrow sense, is certainly not the United States’ main concern here; instead, what truly worries Washington is that Huawei and TikTok have demonstrated the ability to challenge the United States’ domination of the high-tech information industry. If we consider that to be a part of national security, too, then we are saying that U.S. national security and American hegemony are one and the same.
There is no justification here; we have seen the ugly side of the U.S. government and tech industry leaders. The company that is most threatened by TikTok is Facebook, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has become one of the most open and radical advocates calling on the U.S. tech sector to get rid of the company. Originally, in order to bring Facebook to the Chinese market, Zuckerberg did his best to curry favor with China. Now he has changed his tune entirely. When the CEOs of three other U.S. internet giants declined to confirm that China had stolen American technology, he openly declared that it was “well-documented” that the Chinese had done so. He cast aside morality and justice for the sake of profit, and showed people the true face of American capitalism.
In addition, many of TikTok’s users are young Americans, many of whom dislike President Trump. In June, a group of them reduced attendance at Trump’s Tulsa election rally by purchasing tickets ahead of time and intentionally staying home. Many analysts believe that shutting down TikTok before the election is attractive to the president’s campaign team.
China has never banned U.S. tech companies from doing business in China. It has simply required that their actions in China comply with Chinese law, nothing more. U.S. companies refused to cooperate with Chinese regulations. Google once had a foothold in the Chinese market; it left on its own 10 years ago. When other companies independently developed versions of their products to suit the Chinese market, they were accused of bowing to China and met with resistance. As a result, none of the big U.S. internet companies have substantial operations in China at the moment.
Within the United States, TikTok operates in full compliance with U.S. law, and is fully separate from Douyin.* Even if mainland Chinese users bypass the great firewall, they are unable to register for TikTok. That is to say, TikTok has not violated any U.S. regulations, and has fully complied with American management. The U.S. assertion that TikTok poses a threat to its national security is pure speculation and a groundless accusation, just like speculation that Huawei collects intelligence for the Chinese government. This is fundamentally different from China’s refusal to allow Facebook and Twitter’s original versions to be used in China, and its requests that Facebook and Twitter introduce operation modes that conform to Chinese laws for use within China.
China is genuinely protecting its national security in the traditional sense. China’s internet is governed by rule of law; it is only logical that we ask that American companies save Chinese user information on servers located within China, and that they manage content on their platforms in accordance with Chinese law. The U.S. wants to ban TikTok, but what U.S. law has the company violated? In what way has it not complied with U.S. management? What just cause or reason can the U.S. show for wanting to pull TikTok up by the roots?
This is the brutal undertaking of a rogue government, another act put on by Washington to uphold American hegemony. The true nature of hunting down TikTok that we’re seeing today is the forcible protection of hegemony as national security, and the overstepping of laws and business regulations in the process.
The U.S. is using extremely brutal methods to try to solidify its position at the absolute center of the technological world order. Whether it kills TikTok, or snatches it away from ByteDance, this has been one of the ugliest productions within the high-tech competitive sphere of the 21st century.
*Editor’s note: TikTok and Douyin are Chinese video-sharing social networking services owned by ByteDance. Douyin is a Chinese version of the dance video app.
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