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TikTok Ban Sparks US-China Clash

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Overview

A tectonic battle is brewing between the United States and China over the future of technology. At the center lies TikTok, the wildly popular Chinese-owned video app now at risk of being banned across America.

Legislation moving through Congress would bar TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it separates from its Beijing-based parent company. This prospect has set off fiery warnings from China that a ban would amount to digital banditry.

But in Washington, bipartisan momentum against TikTok is accelerating amid allegations it helps China spy on Americans and shape public opinion. For many U.S. teens who have embraced the app, losing TikTok would cut off a creative lifeline.
Yet lawmakers increasingly view the platform as a conduit for Chinese power.

Adding to the complexity, former President Trump has come out against banning TikTok, putting him at odds with his own party. Trump argues targeting TikTok would only help rivals like Facebook.

This showdown over TikTok’s fate underscores a dangerous new phase in the tech cold war between superpowers. The reverberations from this clash could permanently fracture technology along US-China lines.

China Comments On U.S. TikTok Ban

Tensions between the United States and China escalated this week as Congress moved forward with legislation to ban the popular video sharing app TikTok.

The proposed ban has drawn sharp criticism from Chinese officials, who accuse the US of unjustly targeting the Chinese-owned app.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, would bar TikTok from operating in the US unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells its US operations to an American company within six months. Supporters of the legislation cite national security concerns, arguing that under Chinese law, ByteDance could be forced to share user data with the Chinese government.

TikTok

Beijing has denounced the bill, calling it an act of “digital banditry.” At a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the vote on the bill “runs contrary to the principles of fair competition and justice”.

“When someone sees a good thing another person has and tries to take it for themselves, this is entirely the logic of a bandit,” Mr Wang added.

Two Giants Caught In an Ugly Fight

The war of words represents a new flashpoint in the deteriorating relationship between the world’s two largest economies. TikTok has emerged as a political lightning rod amid growing worries in Washington that China is using technology to spy on Americans and sow discord. With over 100 million US users, the app has drawn particular scrutiny for its potential to shape public opinion and mine data.

Critics see the wildly popular platform as a threat to national security. Supporters of a ban, including co-sponsor Senator Marco Rubio, have labeled TikTok a “Trojan horse” for the Chinese Communist Party. They warn China could manipulate TikTok’s algorithms to influence voters or control political narratives.

Concerns have also swirled around the vast trove of user data the app collects, including sensitive information like facial geometry and voiceprints.

While TikTok denies any improper use of US data, distrust of its China-based owner runs deep. Some China hawks see TikTok as a stalking horse for Beijing’s authoritarian surveillance state. They note TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is legally obligated to share data with Chinese authorities if asked, no matter where that data is stored.

But TikTok insists it would never hand over such data to Beijing. TikTok is also working to restructure its global operations in a bid to reassure Western capitals and mute data security fears.

But many US lawmakers remain unconvinced. The House bill reflects growing bipartisan agreement that TikTok in its current form poses too great a risk. Republican Representative Mike McCaul, a co-sponsor, said leaving the app untouched would allow China to manipulate and monitor our youth. The lopsided vote shows most in Congress favor curtailing TikTok’s reach, seeing it as an extension of Chinese power.

Donald Trump’s Surprising Opposition To Banning TikTok

On the other hand, Former President Donald Trump publicly opposed efforts to ban TikTok in a post on his Truth Social platform. Trump argued that Meta, which owns Facebook, poses more of a threat than TikTok.

He accused Meta of unfairly spending $500 million against him and Republicans in the 2020 election. Trump said TikTok did not target him politically like Facebook did. He warned that banning TikTok would only help Facebook grow stronger.

TikTok

The former president suggested restricting political ad spending by Facebook instead of banning TikTok. Trump’s stance marks a reversal from his earlier push to compel a sale of TikTok on national security grounds. His opposition to banning TikTok puts him at odds with lawmakers in both parties seeking to crack down on the Chinese-owned app.

China’s caustic response to all this shows how seriously Beijing takes the threat to TikTok, one of its few globally successful tech exports. Chinese authorities slammed the US bill as hypocritical, noting American social media platforms like Facebook are blocked in China. Commerce Ministry spokesman He Yadong said that China would “take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also reprimanded Canada this week for launching its own national security review of TikTok.

Beijing’s protests underline how the app has become both an economic asset and symbolic flashpoint amid the tech war with Washington. China is fighting fiercely to defend its social media champions as the US seeks to thwart their expansion on security grounds.

TikTok Content Creators Protest Outside The White House

For many American teenagers and 20-somethings, losing TikTok would mean losing hours of daily entertainment. The app has become a cultural phenomenon, known for its bottomless scroll of short videos featuring viral dances, comedy sketches, and life hacks.

TikTok

Some American TikTok creators and users have voiced opposition to the proposed ban. At a protest outside the White House, Tiffany Yu, a young disability advocate from Los Angeles, told the BBC that TikTok is vital to her advocacy work. She uses the platform’s enormous reach to spotlight disability issues and connect with other members of the disabled community. Yu argued that banning the app would cut off a powerful tool for raising awareness about the challenges faced by disabled people in America.

Other TikTok users at the protest echoed worries that blocking the app would deprive them of an important creative outlet and source of income from digital brand partnerships. The backlash highlights concerns that banning TikTok could hurt grassroots American creators who have come to rely on its social video format for expression and business opportunities.

Jobs At Risk

Beyond fun, it is the platform of choice for brands reaching younger demographics. A ban would put thousands of American jobs at risk, according to TikTok estimates.

In response to the House vote, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew warned that the bill would take “billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses”.

He implored the Senate to reject the bill, insisting the app has made far-reaching changes to safeguard US data and is ready to make further concessions.

But sentiment in Washington has soured on TikTok amid plunging China relations. Lawmakers appear focused on prying TikTok from ByteDance’s control rather than addressing specific data risks. For all its efforts at compromise, TikTok looks increasingly like collateral damage in the escalating tech fight between superpowers.

The more immediate question now is whether the Senate will take up the bill, seen as a long shot before the House vote. Banning what has become the world’s most popular app is a drastic step certain to face legal challenges.

With bipartisan Senate backing unlikely, the White House may have to weigh whether such a far-reaching move is prudent when relations with China are already in crisis mode.

The TikTok dilemma lays bare how bipartisan competition to look tough on China will continue driving the tech crackdown regardless of the diplomatic fallout.

Could This Escalate Beyond TikTok?

One thing is certain: the great uncoupling of Chinese and American tech has only just begun. TikTok is not the endgame, but rather the first domino in a cascading deterioration of digital relations. The TikTok row provides a template for efforts to restrict Chinese tech worldwide, especially apps seen as capturing strategically useful data.

Uprooting Chinese apps and restricting Silicon Valley in China will accelerate as both sides use technology to gain strategic advantage. China will likely retaliate if TikTok is banned, posing threats to Apple, Qualcomm and other US tech giants counting on China for production and sales.

The result may be two distinct and incompatible tech spheres, one led by China, the other America.

TikTok is shaping up to be the first casualty in this bifurcation of technology along US-China lines. If banned, it would set a milestone for how far America is willing to go in sacrificing innovation on the altar of security. The reverberations from this tech rupture could make it the shot heard round the digital world.

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