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US attempts to ban TikTok aren’t about ‘security’

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Lawmakers in Washington have an aversion to anything that comes out of China and achieves global success

TikTok is the most successful social media app to emerge in the last decade.

A huge phenomenon among the youth, TikTok has established itself as the most downloaded app in the world, becoming a staple in many people’s lives in the same way that legacy platforms like Facebook used to be. .

However, not everyone is happy. A unique feature of TikTok is that it is the first non-US social media app to gain worldwide traction. More importantly, it is Chinese, and as much as the app is not political, its association with Beijing has put it in the firing line.

A US House committee has just voted in favor of an act that, if signed into law, will give the president the power to ban TikTok as he pleases. Likewise, US President Joe Biden himself has ordered the app to be removed from all federally owned devices, a move that has been copied by some other Western countries.

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The claim is that since TikTok is “Chinese-owned”, it must be a “national security risk”. The most daring US senators, such as Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, have never concealed their intentions to ban it completely in the United States, and who can forget that the Trump administration already tried, but failed success after the measure was challenged. in court?

Of course, there is no serious evidence of a “security risk” posed by TikTok, just guilt by association since the app is Chinese. The company has worked hard and spends huge amounts of money on lobbying and marketing to prove otherwise. Apparently, that’s not enough to stem the tide of paranoia sweeping in their direction.

The reality? The US is simply not rational when it comes to dealing with China. American political culture is deeply affected by “McCarthyist” scaremongering, and when there aren’t enough hard facts available to justify an aggressive policy decision, those decisions are made based on emotional statements. These emotional statements are often related to fear or hatred, and are emphasized as needed to manufacture public consent. This is a “post-truth” world, and China is on the other side.

Over the past few years, the US has developed an aversion to anything coming out of China that has achieved global success. American foreign policy is now obsessed with trying to contain China at all costs, especially in the field of high-end technologies that, if Beijing is allowed to succeed, will greatly drain US power and influence.

Subsequently, the United States has “entity-listed” or blacklisted thousands of Chinese companies. Recent moves include targeting Beijing’s entire semiconductor industry. This was after Washington proposed to cripple Huawei. As the United States goes after the Chinese companies it seeks to eliminate, it targets them with the same vague accusations, claiming that they are a “threat to national security” and that through its “partnership” with the Chinese government, there the risk that the technology will be used to take your data and spy on it.

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Such accusations can become as silly as claiming that Chinese-made refrigerators can spy on people. No solid evidence has ever been provided in this “debate”. The United States simply says it over and over until it becomes an established cliché in popular discourse, is repeated by the mainstream media, and directs public debate in allied countries to obtain foreign policy outcomes that fly Washington This is precisely how the US was able to convince allied countries to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks.

However, it remains unclear whether the Biden administration will ban TikTok nationwide. First, because as much as it is a hugely successful Chinese app, the reality is that the interests of TikTok’s success are not strategic. It doesn’t upset the balance of power between the US or China in a dynamic that may have military implications, at least not in a way that something like semiconductors might. Second, such a ban can have shocking repercussions for free speech and there is a serious argument that it may be unconstitutional. For example, previous attempts by the Trump administration to ban Chinese apps, including WeChat and TikTok, were blocked in court. This sets a precedent regardless of any bill the US Congress may pass.

With that in mind, it’s clear that the obsession with TikTok is nothing more than collective mass hysteria, the same mass hysteria that pervades all things China-related in the US today. However, it remains to be seen whether this will ever lead to substantial political results in the case of TikTok, and if it ever does, it would likely spark outrage and cost Biden a generation of young voters.

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