Here at our CUSEF blog, we share news, updates and stories about China and the United States – the two most important nations of the world. We provide more than a cursory glimpse of what’s going on between the two powers - here, we offer an in-depth look into their current state of affairs.

News Highlights

The TikTok Dilemma

2020-08-25
TikTok app and its creator ByteDance have recently felt the ire of the Trump administration. [Photo Credit: Reuters]
TikTok app and its creator ByteDance have recently felt the ire of the Trump administration. [Photo Credit: Reuters]

In early August, President Donald Trump invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to limit or all-together ban TikTok and WeChat usage in the United States beginning September 15, 2020 if the company does not sell the app to a U.S. based technology company. The order follows the unremitting trade war between China and United States as both countries continuously try to resolve issues concerning trade, technology, security, and diplomacy.

TikTok, the video production app that took over the world and branded as the next cultural phenomenon, is owned and operated by Byte-Dance, a Chinese-owned company founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012. With 800 million active users, TikTok saw immense growth during the pandemic as it empowered home bound users to boost their creativity through content creation and user contribution on the platform.

The app made its debut as a video sharing tool first geared towards a younger user demographic. However within its two years on the market, TikTok grew to encompass a variety of caliber users and influencers. The ability for everyone to record and edit short videos, add music, and other cinematic effects has said to have brought happiness to users all around the globe.

A screenshot of TikTok users creating and sharing content on the platform. [Photo Credit: Nieman Lab]

The app has been downloaded over two billion times in the world, and more than 130 million downloads in United States.

The concerns stated in the order by the U.S. administration focused on TikTok’s privacy regulation and data collection notice upon downloading the app onto a device. As with many apps, users must agree to enable their location, search history, and camera roll for its features to work seamlessly. Other social media app giants employ similar notices and grants of privacy from which information is also retained in their servers. Through a completed third-party investigation, there was no evidence that collected information was shared with foreign governments, though some exceptions were made in an investigation where proper documentation and evidence was provided by the investigative party.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijan has declared the Chinese position that the U.S. cannot dictate the free market and international trade law. While China has also limited the use of U.S. based apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google, officials in Beijing have made considerations to allow U.S. corporations to function in China if they obey with the social regulation and internet controls.

As the United States is entering unprecedented territory never before has a government banned a social app and required for it to be sold in order to functionally continue in the US. Their actions could set a precedent for open market collaboration and interfaces in the future. Over 3 million WeChat users and 40 million TikTok U.S. users may lose a way to connect with friends and loved ones if the current administration follows through with their decision to ban the apps.

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