Tick TikTok Goes Globalization
The bipartisan push to ban TikTok in the US reflects both the growing distrust of China and lawmakers’ limited understanding of the tech world. While there are legitimate national-security concerns associated with the platform, a US ban could end up accelerating deglobalization.
MILAN – The spectacle of the US Congress grilling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on March 23 could one day be remembered as a turning point in the history of globalization. Over five hours of aggressive questioning, Chew – who is not Chinese but Singaporean – did a magnificent job defending his company’s Chinese ownership in the face of Congress’s limited understanding of the tech world.
The Biden administration views TikTok as a potential national-security threat and wants its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform to a US-owned company or face a possible ban. Chew, however, proposes that ByteDance retain its majority ownership of TikTok but have its US operations run entirely by the Texas-based tech giant Oracle, which would store all US user data on its servers and monitor how TikTok’s algorithms recommend content. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has said that it would oppose a forced sale.
But the odds of Chew’s “Project Texas” convincing Congress or President Joe Biden seem slim. US lawmakers have little confidence in the Chinese government’s intentions – and with good reason. For years, Chinese hackers, presumably state-sponsored, have been relentlessly attacking the United States government and US-based companies and siphoning off trillions of dollars in intellectual property. Although exact numbers are difficult to come by, the pervasiveness of Chinese hacking has raised alarm bells among experts worldwide, particularly in ASEAN countries.
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