‘TikTok threat theory’ reflects worsening Sinophobia in the US
Published: Jan 14, 2023 06:50 PM
The logo of TikTok is displayed on the screen of a smartphone in front of a TV screen displaying the TikTok logo. Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Suppressing social media app TikTok, banning the app from government devices, labelling it as "digital fentanyl" and a "CPC virus" - Sinophobia is getting worse in the US because some politicians and elites are taking every chance to spread an anti-China political virus.

The governors of Wisconsin and North Carolina on Thursday signed orders banning TikTok on government devices citing alleged cyber security concerns. The move came after the federal government and nearly half of US states nationwide have prohibited the use of the popular video app.

In late December, President Joe Biden signed a law banning nearly 4 million federal employees from installing TikTok on their government phones, over so-called national security concerns. So far, at least 24 US states have taken official action against the app, restricting access to it.

It seems the ban on TikTok will continue to expand, and this essentially reflects a "TikTok threat theory" in the US, a variant of the "China threat theory," that now is pervasive in the US, said Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

US politicians and elites are projecting their antagonism toward China onto the popular social media app whose parent company originates from China. They baselessly claimed the app could be used by China to access user data and spy on Americans. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a steadfast China hawk, likened the app to "digital fentanyl" that is "highly addictive and destructive." Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state, called TikTok "a dangerous Chinese Communist Party virus" urging the removal of the app off young Americans' phones. If they aren't geopolitically paranoid with a cult-like hatred and fear of China, they wouldn't have uttered such words.

These remarks are nothing but ridiculous propagandistic drivel intended to justify the US politicians' evil intention of cracking down on the app. Some US elites, out of deep-rooted prejudice and ideology-driven Sinophobia, hope to drive Chinese companies or related apps and business activities out of the US by suppressing them, and pursue de-Sinicization in products and services across the US market, so as to maintain US hegemony in related fields such as tech, economy, etc.

Earlier this month, Gallagher said the sale of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app to an American company would be "one acceptable outcome." What's the difference between this and a robbery? The House on January 10 voted to create a tough-on-China select committee "to assess the myriad military, economic and technological challenges posed by China," and the committee is chaired by Gallagher. These lead Chinese observers to believe that the year 2023 will likely become more difficult for TikTok in the US.

TikTok is a platform for people to share their life and it has consolidated its competitive advantages and gained popularity among young people in the US. "The US has been trumpeting the freedom of capital markets, but what it is doing is to use so-called national security as excuse to engage in protectionism and attack its Chinese competitors, this actually reflects the lack of self-confidence of the US," Zhang said.

TikTok operates in accordance with US laws, how can it threaten US national security? The fact is, the US is targeting a social media app that a Chinese company has successfully promoted globally citing so-called national security as excuse. Popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all owned by US companies, but TikTok is an exception to break this monopoly, which makes some American elites very uncomfortable.

It has become a common practice of the US to spread misinformation and use it as an excuse to suppress relevant Chinese companies. But, elites in Washington had better think twice before they groundlessly target TikTok. If other countries target apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as what US politicians are doing with TikTok, citing imagined risks to make things difficult for those US companies, will the world still have apps for universal use? In such scenario, it's US tech giants that will eventually suffer.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn