Source: Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
TikTok is already hanging by a thread in the US. President Donald Trump said on Friday that TikTok could be banned as early as Saturday local time.
Although he did not do it on Saturday, that has put even more pressure on Bytedance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, to negotiate with Microsoft – making it even harder for the Chinese company to hold on to a small stake or sell for more money.
This is indeed the hunting and looting of TikTok by the US government in conjunction with US high-tech companies.
National security, in its narrow sense, is certainly not the most important consideration for the US. The real issue that truly concerns Washington is the ability of Huawei and TikTok to challenge the high-tech hegemony of the US. If this is also national security, then US national security is synonymous with hegemony.
We can clearly see the ugliness demonstrated by the US government as well as the relevant high-tech giants. One of the companies hardest “impacted” by TikTok has been Facebook. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, became the most public and aggressive promoter of TikTok’s demise in the US tech industry.
After wooing the Chinese side in order to get Facebook into the Chinese market, Zuckerberg has completely changed his face. He has declared that he has “ample evidence” that the Chinese side conducted theft of US technology when the CEOs of three other US internet giants declined to confirm that. This man’s willingness to set aside morality for profit shows the true face of US capitalism.
Most of TikTok’s users are US teenagers, many of whom do not like Trump. In June, hundreds of teenage TikTok users reserved tickets of Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but they never showed up. Many analysts believe banning TikTok before the election is an attractive idea for the Trump administration.
China has never banned US high-tech companies from doing business in the country. What the Chinese government demands is that what they do in China should comply with Chinese law. That’s all. It was some US companies that refused to comply with Chinese laws. Google used to have a position in the Chinese market. It itself pulled out of China a decade ago, while other companies were accused in the US of kowtowing to China when they tried to design their specific versions for the Chinese market. This leaves no US internet giant currently operating in China.
TikTok operates in the US in full compliance with US laws and is completely cut off from Douyin, its Chinese equivalent. Users in the Chinese mainland cannot register for TikTok even if they bypass the so-called great firewall. TikTok does not violate any US law but fully cooperates with the US administration.
The US claim that TikTok threatens its own national security is a purely hypothetical and unwarranted charge – just like the groundless accusation that Huawei gathers intelligence for the Chinese government. This is fundamentally different from China’s refusal to allow the original versions of Facebook and Twitter to enter China and require them to operate in accordance with Chinese laws.
China is truly safeguarding national security in its conventional sense. We require US companies to store Chinese users’ information on the servers located in China and require them to manage content posted on their platforms in accordance with Chinese laws. This is the inevitable logic of China’s law-based internet governance. The US wants to ban TikTok. But which US law has it violated? What US regulation has it not cooperated with? What kind of factual basis does the US have for the accusation against TikTok? When the US is not able to answer these questions, what kind of axioms and morals can really be put on the table for the uprooting of TikTok?
This is the barbaric act of a rogue government, and yet another dark scene in Washington’s struggle for US supremacy. The idea of hegemony as national security enforced beyond the laws and commercial rules is the nature of the hunt against TikTok that we see today.
In the most barbaric way, the US is trying to solidify a high-tech world order in which it is the absolute center. Whether it ends up “killing” TikTok or forcibly taking the child out of Bytedance’s arms, it is one of the ugliest scenes of the 21st century in the high-tech competition.