Washington’s gangster-like attempts to take over the social media app reveal an inability to tolerate competition By Timur Fomenko, a political analyst The TikTok logo the social media app company offices in Culver City, California © Patrick T. Fallon / AFP
The TikTok wars are heating up. The Biden administration has reportedly issued an ultimatum to the Chinese company Bytedance that it must sell the social media application or face a ban in the US.
TikTok has been subject to growing pressure from US politicians, who claim that the app, which was the most downloaded one in the world in 2022, is a growing national security risk, on account of its Chinese origin. Using the logic of guilt by association, it has been argued that TikTok could pass on its users’ data to the Chinese government. This has never been proven, directly or indirectly. It is a drummed-up ‘potential’ danger based on rampant paranoia that has engulfed Washington pertaining to all things Beijing.
In this, the Biden administration once again shows its incapability and unwillingness to challenge, restrain, or demonstrate reason against the worst elements of McCarthyism in American political circles. Instead, those elements are embraced for political gain. Now the administration wants to carry on where Trump failed and extort a sale of TikTok under the threat of a ban.
TikTok claims US is threatening it with ban
Washington’s posturing on TikTok is like that of a gangster: “You’ve got a nice social media app there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.” The “national security” fears are a superficial excuse that covers up the real reason behind all American decisions regarding Beijing: Washington’s inability to accept competition. Anything Chinese that is deemed to be successful or ‘outdo America’ is threatened, whether it’s political influence in the global arena or a successful market product.
The US has targeted a wide variety of Chinese companies with superfluous, opportunistic, and outright dishonest claims in order to quash their market shares. The most common line is the same one that is currently being weaponized against TikTok – about it being a “national security threat.” These claims always involve an alleged link to the Chinese government, and a claim that the given app, service or product is being used to spy on Americans, which is never proven. The claims are often deeply irrational, such as the recent allegations about surveillance through fridges or cargo cranes.
When the national security argument does not suffice, the Biden administration weaponizes the “human rights abuse” issue, as was done with Chinese solar panels, the availability of which Washington has sought to limit domestically as part of its ‘made in America’ green agenda, preferring home-made alternatives instead. The US, again without evidence, alleged the panels were manufactured with forced labor in the Xinjiang autonomous region. But the picture is nonetheless clear: it is always about market share and American dominance, and the outrage is manufactured as a way of creating support for sanctions.
China is competing in a great Asian arms race because it has no other choice
But TikTok is different. It has established itself as the world’s number one social media app and is used by over 100 million Americans. It is so successful that to simply ban it outright would be a hugely unpopular decision. So on two occasions now the policy has been not to simply get rid of it instantly but to use political power to try to coerce the app’s Chinese owners into selling it to America. In other words, TikTok has been so good at swallowing up the US market that really China has no right to own it and an app such as that ought to be American.
Such a move contravenes everything the US professes to stand for. Although Facebook is banned in China, how would Washington and the media react to a demand by Beijing that Facebook sell its entire operation in China to a Chinese company for the right to operate in its market? The reaction would be explosive, and there would be accusations of Chinese ‘economic coercion’, ‘bullying’, abuse of state power, etc. The same goes here: the US is actively undermining the spirit of free enterprise, freedom of speech, and the rule of law by attempting to demand that a firm sell its entire business. For China to agree to this outcome would be nothing short of humiliation and acceptance of a place beneath the US. In other words, anything China makes that is good ought to be taken from it, and it has no right to its own success.
China should immediately block Bytedance from selling TikTok under any circumstances. If the US wants to ban it, let it just go ahead and do so, thus letting a generation of young people see the realities of the anti-China hysteria that the Biden administration is actively embracing. In that case, Biden should suffer the political fallout of that. America must not and cannot be allowed to win on this. Washington D.C’s arrogance is contemptible, but this is nothing short of robbery.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.