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The TikTok deal, a brazen heist

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-09-25 10:33

The TikTok logo is seen in this illustration. [Photo/Agencies]

What popular video-sharing app TikTok has undergone over recent months has provided the world with a textbook example of the United States' modern-day piracy and tech bullying.

Under the cliched pretext of protecting national security, Washington first threatened to shut down TikTok's operations in the United States, before forcing it to sell itself to American companies.

Over the last week, while the world has been celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the most prominent epitome of multilateralism and cooperation, Washington pushed its luck to try and gobble up the Chinese social networking service. Otherwise, it says it will refuse to approve the agreement reached on Saturday by TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, with US companies Oracle and Walmart.

By repeatedly using state power to suppress the private company without any proper justification, despite widespread protests from numerous TikTok users and concerns from industry observers, Washington has laid bare its true intention: to pull off a daylight heist.

Its so-called national security concerns are nothing but a fig leaf. According to Business Insider and other media outlets, US politicians have repeatedly accused TikTok of stealing citizens' information and threatening national security, but never found any evidence. Experts who have scrutinized TikTok's code and privacy policies have also found them not so different from other social media platforms, including Facebook.

"TikTok's data collection practices aren't particularly unique for an advertising-based business," Wired magazine reporter Louise Matsakis concluded after a deep dive into the issue. A German government official told Bloomberg that the country has seen no signs that the app poses a national security risk. What's more, the European Union has refused to label TikTok a national security threat.

The clampdown on TikTok has undermined international trade rules and order. TikTok is a purely commercial company; the use of national power by the United States to encircle and suppress it has seriously shaken the cornerstone of the establishment of global economic and trade rules.

"I do believe anytime a nation-state renders judgment on which applications can or cannot run 'in country' ... then it provides 'air cover' for countries to impose what I would describe as 'nontariff' trade barriers," Aneesh Chopra, who served as the first chief technology officer of the United States under former President Barack Obama, said in an email to NBC News.

Without a fair and stable environment, all multinational enterprises, including US ones, will be put at risk. Washington's indiscriminate crackdown on TikTok might benefit its American rivals such as Facebook in the short term, but such behavior in the long term is bound to undermine the global climate to the detriment of all investors.

From Huawei and ZTE to TikTok and WeChat, the United States' preying on China's leading technology companies in recent years has exposed Washington's attempt to curb the Asian country's development. The superpower has a tradition of suppressing any foreign enterprise that challenges its leading position, even those in allied countries, such as Japan's Toshiba and France's Alstom.

TikTok is a successful social media platform, but the United States does not want to see it thrive in the free market. Should the United States be allowed to get its way with its tricks and bullying, it would do the same over and over again, and more countries and enterprises would fall victim.

"If the US is bent on having its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies," China's ministry of commerce said Saturday in an online statement.

It is time that other countries saw through the outrageous farce of the TikTok drama, knew what is really at stake, and joined hands to oppose such blatant robberies and maintain a fair global business environment.

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