US government's tech war includes pillage of TikTok

By Li Hong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/27 16:25:51

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The Trump administration's maneuver to divide TikTok's global operations from its China business, and its aspiration to take over TikTok global operations at a later stage, looks shrewd, but in essence is outright pillage of a non-American company. 

The hegemonic act by the world's dominant superpower, if not throttled and stopped, will produce long-standing destructive impact on normal international business dealings - which ought to be free of political calculation and repression. 

The seesawing battle over TikTok's US assets is another example of the Trump administration setting a very unstable playing field for global companies wishing to do business in the US market. 

Earlier, the Trump administration has used bare-knuckled measures to repress and decimate Huawei by cutting off major supplies, simply because it cannot bear Huawei's advantages in 5G mobile communication technology. 

By usurping a very promising Chinese high-tech company, the Trump administration also wants to put on "victor's" domineering pomp, and help Trump win more political points and votes as the US presidential election is impending. TikTok offers a short video app which is wildly popular among American households, teenagers and the youth in particular. 

With US technology giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and Netflix devouring and enveloping markets in countries big and small, around the world, the administration cannot tolerate a Chinese internet upstart like TikTok to erode the competitiveness - as well as supremacy - of American companies. 

The current US administration wants to use its mighty governmental power to stifle new-born market rivals propping up from anywhere in the world. It wants American corporations to dominate the profitable internet market, in the long run. 

This time, if TikTok Global is separated from TikTok China (named Douyin), and becomes a US company - which is planned by the White House - US President Trump, in the coming month before the November 3 election, could repeatedly beat his chest, appearing "triumphant" in his years-long trade and diplomatic confrontations with China, despite his administration's catastrophic failure to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 7 million Americans and killed over 200,000 now.

The administration preyed on TikTok, with Trump abruptly announcing to the US press during an Air Force One flight on August 14 that the US government would ban TikTok's US operations in 90 days, unless ByteDance, its parent company in China, agreed to sell TikTok to American companies, such as Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart.

The managerial team of TikTok has issued a statement to the world, saying the US government's decision to force it to be sold "was not motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election." 

Obviously, Trump wants a successful takeover of TikTok to help him win more ballots in order to defeat his Democratic rival Joe Biden. 

China's regulators have made it clear that they will not accept a "fire sale agreement" reached with a gun pointing to the head of TikTok, as Chinese people and the government will never again accept an "unequal treaty" forced on the country.

The latest deal between Oracle, Walmart and TikTok, reportedly "blessed" by Trump, has many such "unequal" provisions. According to Western media revelations, the deal says TikTok's encryption source codes will have to be shared with Oracle, and, TikTok Global's board will be composed exclusively of US citizens and will include a security committee led by a person with US government security clearances. The US government will have to approve both the board members and the head of the security committee. 

And, Trump boasted at a campaign rally last week that ByteDance will help create 25,000 jobs in the US, and donate a staggering $5 billion to an American education fund, addressing his earlier promise to Americans that ByteDance will have to pay the US government a fee for the transaction facilitated by his administration.  

The plundering move of TikTok was choreographed by some of the hardcore China hawks in the Trump administration as well in the Republican Party which Trump leads.

The way of the Trump administration coercing and robbing a Chinese star company through issuing "presidential executive orders" to force a fire sale of TikTok should be sending shudders among non-American business community. The greed of the administration is evident. 

Uncertainties will hang on ByteDance, which is valued at $140-160 billion by many investors. China will stand firmly behind the unicorn internet company. Whether it could survive as a whole, and become another technology heavyweight and grab a slice of the international internet market share from Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and other dominant US technology giants remains to be seen. 

The author is an editor with the Global Times.


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