Source: Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
US President Donald Trump said on Monday that Microsoft should pay the US Treasury a “substantial portion” of the purchase price if it buys TikTok, because it is the US government that is making the deal possible. Nobody can immediately figure out which way this sum of money will flow into the Treasury. Gene Kimmelman, a former chief counsel for the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said Trump’s demand is “quite unusual” and “out of the norm.”
The Trump administration said it would shut down TikTok or let a US company purchase it. Now, it’s demanding that the Treasury cut the deal. These constitute a clear robbery of TikTok. The US has been claiming to build an Indo-Pacific order based on rules.
However, just look at what Washington has done with TikTok. Where are the rules?
Washington’s rules are “might is everything.” The US, as a strong power, not only is the rule-maker, but also willfully takes its wanton actions to break the rules as part of the rules. Other countries can only keep the rules in mind and accept US’ violations of the rules.
The TikTok incident shows that in a US-led world, power overwhelms rules. There is no such thing as a fight for rules. The US will make it a fight for power. The basis for rules is morality. When morality clashes with power, the US will use power to knock morality down. This is the essence of the US-led international order.
Sabotaging TikTok makes no sense. Some people said this can be seen as a reciprocal measure by the US to deal with China’s policy of blocking US internet giants from operating in the Chinese market. But this is not the whole picture. China offers conditions under which US tech companies can operate in the Chinese market, which is to operate within the framework of China’s laws and regulations. Google once did this. Any US tech company can become part of China’s internet industry, as what Google did a few years ago.
But the US ban of TikTok is an arbitrary executive order. It refused to offer any conditions for TikTok to continue to operate in the US, and declined to give any possibility that the app would not be banned.
TikTok will be either banned or sold. There was no condition offered to dilute the so-called national security concerns from the US. The excuse of “national security” has become a butcher’s knife with which the US could chop Chinese companies at will.
Once again, the US has set an example to the world how it uses power to set aside rules and morality. This sounds an alarm of huge political risks to global companies which operate in the US. When a company becomes big and poses a perceived challenge to US business giants, it could anticipate something disastrous. Even if the owner of TikTok is a European company, can people be sure that it will not be squeezed by the US?
The US will certainly pay a price in the long run, but the Trump administration doesn’t care. What it wants is immediate benefits. The Trump administration will not hesitate to do whatever it believes will help its reelection.
It’s fair to say the US, under the current administration, is becoming a pretty crazy country. Hunting a company in a barbaric way and achieving its purpose by unscrupulously using the concept of “national security,” the US has crossed the bottom line of civilization.
However, the US has no domestic forces to stop all this. It’s foreseeable that with the US as an example, rules will play a weaker role in building of world order in the 21st century.
In a world which lacks rules, the cost of interaction between countries will increase, and the subtle shift from a win-win result to a lose-lose one will be inevitable. At a time when people are experiencing an unprecedented pandemic, it will be tragic to lose rules.