US bid to decouple internet is a double-edged sword

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Source: Global Times

Photo: IC

When the Trump administration flexed its political muscle on TikTok, many saw it as an isolated case. Unfortunately, it has turned out that Washington’s attack on TikTok is just an appetizer among a wave of purge of Chinese internet companies in the US market.

US President Donald Trump signed an unexpected executive order last week banning “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holding Ltd.”

While it is unclear to what extent the ban would affect WeChat, the latest development has stoked concerns in the global online sector, as the situation seems to be heading down a dangerous path, that is an internet decoupling between the US and China.

Trump administration’s order is likely to force Google and Apple app stores in the US market to remove WeChat, according to local media reports. But, a variety of online tech guides have emerged, teaching users how to circumvent the US government ban, and seek other effective ways to download WeChat app on iPhones.

Meanwhile, Chinese online surveys have revealed that if WeChat is not stored in Apple’s app store, an overwhelming percentage of Chinese users would immediately throw away iPhones, and switch to other brands, such as Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung. It is because WeChat has about 1.2 billion users and is immensely popular among Chinese users who rely on the app for everyday life and work.

Yet, seen from another perspective, all the online tutorials and hypothetical questions reflect rising uncertainty and anxiety shared by internet users. And such worries should by no means be underestimated.

The inconvenience caused by the US government ban and its internet decoupling bid will affect many people’s purchase decisions, which could produce far-reaching negative impact on iPhone sales in China and elsewhere.

Two detached internet systems that the US government is working, is not what the online world wants to see.

China remains to be the largest internet market in many years to come as the country boasts the world’s largest internet-hooked population and owns the world’s most advanced 4G and 5G mobile networks.

Internet-based technology innovations and new business models will create enormous markets for hardware and software, including microchips and apps. If American firms are banned by their government to sell to China, other companies will flood in.

If the US stubbornly bring the Cold War mentality to the internet world, it is conceivable that the impact will be devastating for many American companies. China’s digital economy totaled 31.3 trillion yuan in 2019 or accounted for 34.8 percent of its GDP, the internet sector accounted for $2.1 trillion of the US economy in 2018, or about 10 percent of GDP, according to media reports.

In the past years, the internet sectors of the two countries have shared a great deal of business cooperation and patents exchanges which have led to internet-based business explosion in both countries.

We hope that the US government could think it over about the severe consequences of internet and technology decoupling which is in essence a double-edged sword, and stops playing politics any longer.

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