GT Voice: Crackdown on TikTok mirrors waning of US internet sector
Published: Jan 31, 2023 10:07 PM
TikTok Photo: VCG

TikTok Photo: VCG

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the US Energy and Commerce Committee in March to testify on TikTok's consumer privacy and data security practices. It will be Chew's first appearance before a Congressional committee, said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the panel, in a statement on Monday.

The news comes as the US House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote in February on a bill aimed at "giving the White House the legal tools" to block the use of TikTok in the US over so-called national security concerns, according to the South China Morning Post.

An escalating US crackdown on the popular short-video app is a distorted hegemonic behavior that violates market principles under the forced intervention of the US government. It is repeatedly said that the Chinese government has neither direct nor indirect control of ByteDance or ByteDance-owned TikTok, but some US politicians are still committed to unjustifiably suppressing TikTok, citing security concerns without any factual basis and evidence. This is typical economic bullying.

Operating in accordance with US laws, TikTok is a popular short-video app for people to share their life, how can it threaten US national security? So-called security concern is just an excuse. The best explanation to US crackdown is that American economic hegemony won't allow a Chinese company capable of challenging the competitiveness of its US counterparts, especially in emerging internet-related sectors which represent the future development of the global economy.

TikTok has amassed over one billion monthly active users in about five years, making it a rare social media application not owned by Facebook or Google to claim an audience of that size. What really worries the US is not the "security of American users' data," but a rapidly-growing market influence of TikTok and whether the country will lose its leading position in the cyber-world. 

The US tries to maintain its economic hegemony by choking off China's most competitive companies. In the process, Washington ignores rules and is unreasonable. However, protectionist sentiment won't help the US economy, and instead will be an impediment to economy and growth.

Being a tech power, the US is home to many leading internet companies. The country is a pioneer in the global internet community, but in recent years, the US' internet structure has atrophied. In 2022, technology stocks slumped after a series of disappointing earnings reports from industry heavyweights rattled investors. It comes as no surprise that there is increased anti-globalization and trade protectionist rhetoric amid economic downturn, but protectionism won't give impetus and vitality to the economy, on the contrary, the US will take steps closer to its decline. By cracking down on Chinese entities like TikTok, the US would harm its own internet diversity and restrain market competition, thus decrease its economic vitality and strand its economic development. The more the US suppresses TikTok, the more vitality of the internet economy will be lost.

TikTok has triggered a sense of crisis to US elites, which shows that China's top companies have the ability to move to the forefront of the world in technology. Frankly speaking, Chinese companies have to learn how to cope with the pressure from the US government in the process of becoming a world-class player. Facing a crackdown by the US government, TikTok does not react emotionally in neither an anger nor panic mood, it has reacted rationally and calmly to US crackdown, and has positively sought to communicate with the US government to find the best solution. 

Talking about the upcoming hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, said "we welcome the opportunity to set the record straight about TikTok, ByteDance, and the commitments we are making to address concerns about US national security," CNN reported. The company said it hopes that by sharing details of its comprehensive plans, US Congress can take a more deliberative approach to the issues at hand.

Many Chinese are confident in ByteDance and believe it cannot be defeated as its comprehensive competitive power offers it room to confront the challenges. The company can take the upcoming hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as an opportunity to let the world know more about TikTok and its efforts on keeping data secure.