TikTok ban likely not Trump’s last move as election nears

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/3 21:36:08

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

As the November US presidential election draws near, anti-China moves even harsher than the looming TikTok ban are likely to be rolled out by the Trump administration.

Developed by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, TikTok is an international version of the Chinese short-video platform Douyin. Though following a path of localization across the world, its operations have come under the spotlight as the news that Trump plans to force it out of the US market has been trending through the weekend.

Trump told media on Friday night (US time) that he intends to ban TikTok through an executive order, indicating that he may not allow the app to be acquired by any US company. Microsoft, a potential buyer of TikTok's US business, reportedly put a hold on talks, and later the company confirmed it has continued negotiations following a conversation with Trump.

Amid headlines concerning the app's future, ByteDance fired back in a statement that it remains committed to internationalization and will use its legal rights to defend its legitimate interests. It also called out "copying and slandering" from its competitor Facebook.

Western countries' social media platforms have long dominated, and only a handful of Chinese firms that have entered the arena in recent years have won popularity. TikTok has seen record-high downloads across the world. Per data from an industry analysis platform Sensor Tower in April, TikTok had been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally.

The US' plan to ban TikTok follows the same logic as its crackdown on Chinese tech firm Huawei. The US has been limiting the 5G frontrunner for years, essentially the result of evolving relations between China and the US-led Western world.

TikTok and Huawei are not isolated cases. Chinese high-tech firms that expand overseas will encounter different levels of barriers as China develops into a new tech power, giving rise to concerns from countries that feel threatened by Chinese technology.

The US will not allow a social media platform that enjoys high popularity among younger generations to be operated by a foreign company, especially when the countdown to its presidential election ticks on. Banning TikTok now is, to some extent, also a move by Trump to control public voices after groups of young American TikTok users reportedly upstaged his first large-scale public rally amid the COVID-19 pandemic by registering for tickets and failing to attend.

With the election drawing near, a plunging second-quarter GDP at negative 32.9 percent, and the world's largest number of coronavirus infections, it is likely the Trump administration will continue rolling out new and even harsher measures to antagonize China and attempt to block it economically. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Fox News Channel on Sunday that Trump will take actions in the coming days on Chinese apps, including TikTok.

It is true that the US still has advantages over China in many areas. With relations between China and the West continually evolving, and with some Western economies starting to see China as a major rival, it is crucial for China to re-assess its position and reflect on its strategies amid this increasingly uncertain global framework.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Zhang Jiadong, a professor at the Center for American Studies under Fudan University. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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