China blasts US 'unreasonable' crackdown after TikTok ban
Published: Feb 28, 2023 10:48 PM

TikTok Photo: VCG

TikTok Photo: VCG

Commenting on the US government's recent ban on a Chinese firm's short video-sharing app TikTok, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday slammed Washington for its abuse of state power in unreasonably cracking down on businesses from other countries, suggesting the US' lack of confidence against a mobile app. 

Following a series of moves against TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, the White House on Monday asked US government agencies to get rid of the app from official devices and systems within 30 days, according to Reuters. 

The move follows a ban ordered by the US Congress, which cited national security concerns, in December 2022. US lawmakers are also set to vote this week on a bill that would give US President Joe Biden the authorities to ban the app from all US devices, Reuters reported. 

Asked about the US ban on TikTok at a press briefing in Beijing, Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that as the world's No.1 power, the US is actually so afraid of a mobile app that young people like, and that is rather too unconfident.

"We firmly oppose the US' wrong practice of generalizing the concept of national security and abusing state power to unreasonably suppress companies from other countries," Mao said, urging the US to respect fair competition principles and stop crackdowns on relevant companies.

ByteDance did not comment on the bans as of press time on Tuesday, but its subsidiary, TikTok, said that so-called national security concerns raised by US and other officials are fueled by misinformation. TikTok stressed its efforts to protect user data and privacy.

The US move on Monday comes as Canada and the EU imposed similar bans. Canada on Monday issued a ban on TikTop on government-issued devices, with Prime Minister Justine Trudeau suggesting moves could be taken. Last week, the EU's two biggest policymaking bodies also banned the app on staff phones.

Notably, despite their repeated citing of security concerns as the reason for the bans, Western officials have not made public any instances of security breaches involving TikTok. The company, which has been trying to convince US and European officials that concerns over its security issues are misplaced, noted that such bans are "misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions."

The bans sparked some criticism and opposition within the West. Following the US' move on Monday and ahead of the US House of Representatives' vote on a bill to ban TikTok on all US devices, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the largest public-interest law firms in the US, said it firmly opposes the bill. 

"Congress must not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. Whether we're discussing the news of the day, livestreaming protests, or even watching cat videos, we have a right to use TikTok and other platforms to exchange our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people around the country and around the world," said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at ACLU. 

The ACLU noted, citing a US law, that the US government "can't ban a social media platform simply because the app is from a Chinese company."

There are growing concerns among US businesses, especially small businesses, which rely on TikTok to promote their products and services. Despite the politically motivated moves, it might be too difficult to ban the app entirely, analysts noted. The US' increasingly reckless hostility against China has and will continue to hurt its own interests, analysts added.

Although the US has been talking up a ban on TikTok and even trying to force the sale of TikTok to a US business, TikTok was the most popular mobile app in the US in 2022, with 99 million downloads, according to Statista. In the EU, 125 million people come to TikTok every month, according to the company. 

The move against TikTok comes as the US, along with some of its allies, are stepping up the crackdown on Chinese firms, amid their politically motivated containment strategy against China, analysts said. 

"Using security as a pretext, the US has cracked down on Chinese companies. And this trend is only going to intensify," He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

As tension between China and the US continues to deepen, it is necessary to conduct communication "to manage the differences," if not address them, He said. 

US officials have repeatedly spoken about "resuming" trade talks with Chinese officials. On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the US will resume economic talks with China "at an appropriate time."

Commenting on reports of Yellen hoping to visit China earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Chinese Commerce Ministry said that the Chinese side holds a "welcome attitude toward Secretary Yellen's wish to visit China."