Using airship incident to attack TikTok shows Washington's absurdity
Published: Feb 08, 2023 11:01 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Short-video platform TikTok has nothing to do with the recent airship incident, but that didn't stop some US politicians from trying to maliciously connect the two and using the incident and the hysterical overreaction of shooting down the civilian airship as leverage to ban TikTok. By ramping up anti-China hysteria, political elites can accumulate political capital, but it may become a cancer that erodes the US economy.

A number of elected officials - from a former presidential nominee to a backbencher lawmaker - have been involved over the past few days, NBC News reported. "A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let's shut them all down," US Senator Mitt Romney said on Twitter. "Now blow up TikTok," tweeted Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, after the US shot down the Chinese civilian airship.

The Chinese airship is a civil aircraft with seriously limited self-steering capability that entered US airspace unintentionally due to force majeure. However, the endless hype made by US politicians and the hysterical overreaction of using the F-22 Raptor, the US Air Force's crown jewel, to shoot down a "balloon," reflect nothing but the chaotic and sick political situation in Washington. 

It is not only a joke but also a political trick. In Washington, the atmosphere is like facing a formidable enemy, but the opponent is just a "balloon." The US has obviously overreacted, as some politicians believe ramping up anti-China hysteria can help them gain a political advantage. 

Currently, some US politicians are in a frantic race over who is tougher on China and the hysteria has made them lose basic objectivity on China-related issues. The Chinese airship is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. It has nothing to do with TikTok, a popular short-video sharing platform. It is ridiculous to involve a short-video app into the recent airship incident.

TikTok operates in the US in full compliance with US laws and is completely cut off from Douyin, its Chinese equivalent. The company has long said that it stores US user data within the US, but some US politicians are still committed to unjustifiably suppressing the short-video app, citing security concerns without any factual basis and evidence. 

Although an escalating US crackdown on TikTok is a distorted hegemonic behavior that violates market principles, some US politicians tried to defend themselves. However, using the airship incident to attack TikTok fully exposes the absurdity of an escalating US crackdown on the short-video app. It seems some US politicians have lost their rationality in dealing with TikTok-related issue.

Now, there are a growing number of US political elites that wants to crack down on the video-sharing platform, with some trying to ban it completely. US President Joe Biden said on Monday he was not sure if Washington would ban TikTok, Reuters reported.

Questions have been raised on what would happen if the US bans TikTok completely. TikTok is one of the world's most popular social media apps and is reportedly available in more than 150 markets. Internet, to a certain extent, represents the direction of technology and market development. At the very least, an escalating US crackdown on TikTok will harm US internet diversity and restrain market competition.

The US economy would pay a price for Washington's distorted hegemonic behavior. The rest of the world shouldn't follow the US steps on suppressing TikTok because the US crackdown on TikTok is just a political farce that would hurt its own economy.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.