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TikTok neither a loaded gun nor a Kraken: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-28 20:32

US Representative Jamal Bowman (D-NY) joins TikTok creators at a news conference to speak out against a possible ban of TikTok at the House Triangle at the United States Capitol in Washington, US, March 22, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Rob Joyce, director of Cybersecurity at the United States National Security Agency, compared it to a "loaded gun".

Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed it could use it to "suppress information".

Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives, vowed to "protect Americans from the technological tentacles".

Although their remarks sound like Hollywood clichés, what has fired up Washington is neither an alien force invading the Earth nor some Kraken unleashed from the depths of the ocean, but simply a smartphone app.

Although, to be more accurate, it is not the app that has got them in a tizz and all riled up. It is the twin facts that it is immensely popular — having 150 million users in the US and 1 billion around the world — and not a US product. Compounding those "sins" is the fact that its parent company is Chinese.

Despite the app's US operations being totally run by a US company with a US team in accordance with US regulations, and the company's only relationship with the parent company being the latter gets its deserved profits according to the shares it holds, many US lawmakers and security top brass have a knee-jerk reaction to its origins.

The app is TikTok. It is the app's Chinese DNA that prompted the grilling of Shou Zi Chew, the Singaporean CEO of the American company, with silly questions such as whether TikTok can be connected to a family Wi-Fi and whether it could be used to control other family devices via that Wi-Fi.

Anybody with a middle school diploma knows the answer to the former is "yes" and to the latter is "no". By asking such questions the members of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee put on a performance of remarkable technological illiteracy in order to demonstrate to the US public they are working hard to protect them against a Chinese threat entirely of their own fabrication.

At the beginning of the March 24 testimony, Earl LeRoy "Buddy" Carter, US Congress representative from Georgia, said "Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress". By that he meant both Democrats and Republicans are of one mind when it comes to China. The US' suppression of TikTok because it has been developed by a Chinese company is now par for the course in Washington, which keeps teeing up such cheap shots.

The only way for the US to restore the credibility it has lost with such wayward drives, is to provide an open, fair, just and nondiscriminatory environment for companies in the US, as Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

But having become stuck in the bunker of Washington's "anti-China" mentality for so long, the US lawmakers will no doubt keep blasting away with the same old shots, confident that having worked in the past to hit the deck they will do so again.

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