The TikTok and WeChat ban: Why we are all losers

Thursday August 13 2020

 

By Sweba Unuki

As the US-China diplomatic rumbles continue to unfold, especially with the ongoing TikTok and WeChat saga, things prove to behave contrary to the widely embraced principle of economic diplomacy.

Recent developments suggest that the TikTok and WeChat stories are multilayered and shouldn’t be viewed in isolation, and that should the conflicts be allowed to continue, a no-win situation would reign.

Politics aside, the tussles compromise US-China as well as global trade for the fact that the two applications act as carriers for carrying out business transactions, including payments by the business community.

As an early sign of deterioration of global trade and loss to America, iPhone users in China have expressed disinterest in continuing to use the popular American brand following Trump’s ban on WeChat transactions!

But the ongoing controversies and the consequent US ban on TikTok and WeChat should at least be associated with the West’s failure to continue keeping Hong Kong within its spheres of influence, especially after the Hong Kong National Security Act came into force.

The trade disputes come with some purely political claims, including the West branding of China as undemocratic and embracing a medieval feudal mentality. It therefore raises the concerns that given its nature and political situation, China could entice its authorities to demand TikTok and other China-based applications to disclose crucial information related to their dealings.

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Such baseless accusations fail to consider the path that China has chosen as far as its democracy is concerned, and the level of development it has attained from 1978 onwards, the milestones which took the West over 200 years to arrive at.

Surprisingly, nearly all the countries that have expressed concerns over TikTok – the US, Australia, the EU bloc, Japan, India and several others – are Western or west-leaning, making it logical to conclude that the matter goes beyond technology and are politically motivated.

Moreover, banning TikTok and WeChat wouldn’t even fit in the reciprocity thresholds as some would argue citing China’s ban on Google, Facebook and Twitter, among other western-based social media platforms and news websites since the said companies failed to comply with the Chinese law requiring them to store their user data locally in China, among other requirements.

The ban on TikTok in the concerned countries suggests the existence of other reasons behind their erratic decisions in a world dominated by trade and technology. Of late, India’s decision to ban TikTok follows its recent border altercation with China in the Himalayas. Likewise, the US’ failed attempts at interfering in the affairs of China make it eager to continuously look for loopholes to attack the Asian powerhouse.

Therefore, detractors may think that TikTok can be a loophole to easily exploit in their efforts to make China to succumb to imperialist demands, while making the world buy into the narrative of ‘privacy and security concerns’.

Such concerns, however, fall short of considering that using domestic law, all countries can demand for disclosure of user information where the situation warrants such an action to be taken.

For instance, the US itself unsuccessfully attempted to enact the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, in 2010 and 2011 respectively, both of which were vehemently opposed by the people and consequently failed to pass in the House of Representatives. Had they been passed, the laws would give US federal authorities an unrestricted access to user data at any time.

However, the failed bills haven’t stopped the US from spying on its people and other users of its popular social media and search engines including Twitter, Facebook and Google, thus signaling authoritarianism par excellence in a rather self-proclaimed ‘free society’.

Therefore, logically, America is scared of its own shadow prior to its cashing in on TikTok, and the privacy and security concerns over the popular app prove to be a bandwagon which will cost the entire world given the interconnectedness we are living in.

It should be remembered that the US-China strained relations have a long history, with the situation suggesting that the rise of China which worries America, making the latter to sometimes go rogue to preserve its currently fading global leadership!

Given its trend, the conflict seems to take the shape of the obsolete post-war east-west dichotomy since the US appears to garner the support of its allies in actions that can best be described as attempts aimed at bullying the otherwise emerging power – China!

Considering the difficulty of separating politics from the economy today, what started off as anti-China political sentiments has its economic attributes coming out clear, putting the entire world at a loss.