What could a TikTok Ban mean for China’s Relations with the West?

In the last few years, major western powers have been collaborating on keeping Chinese tech and internet infrastructure out of the free world. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Japan have already effectively banned Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, from developing their national 5G networks due to concerns over privacy and security, specifically regarding possible malicious intent on the part of the Chinese government.

When it comes to further Chinese online encroachment on American markets, President Trump and his administration has been unequivocal in its opposition to Chinese software which is stemming from serious fears for national security. Next to Huawei, popular teen app, TikTok, has become the next target of the Trump administration. After conducting several national security reviews of the popular platform, Trump’s efforts against TikTok have ramped up in recent weeks, with key players like Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo anticipating an official ban in the coming week. Pompeo said that, “The Chinese Communist Party is running espionage operations inside the United States, and attempting deep influence targeting of American business leaders, of American congressmen, of city council members. This is a deep effort to conduct influence operations to undermine American democracy and put our nation at risk.”

In response to Trump’s strongman attitude on keeping Chinese tech out of the United States, China’s leadership has consistently claims that it always requires Chinese companies to manage their operations abroad in cooperation with respective laws and regulations. 

In the last week it has become apparent that there is a real possibility for the US to ban TikTok, but interested parties have resolved to sell the app’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to an American company in order to salvage the brand in the west while meeting American national security standards.

Microsoft has reportedly been the frontrunner to purchase the American operations of TikTok, while Apple has also come out with interest in making a deal with the Chinese company. President Trump has also argued that since he is so graciously saving TikTok’s relevancy in the United States, the government should be entitled to a substantial cut of any deal.

In any case, Trump has warned that there are still several options on the table for TikTok and if no deal is agreed upon by September 15th to the appeasement of national security, he will ban the app.

With the United States as the global face of democracy, China’s persistence with antidemocratic maneuvering on the world stage may put them in an unsalvageable situation. As western democracies and developing nations look to the US for guidance and direction, China may simply not garner enough international support, let alone tolerance, to act unilaterally in the international atmosphere.

China itself is a strong and powerful nation, but its power is consolidated in Beijing with the Communist Party of China. Though the nation has immense influence in the business sphere, that is the only thing keeping it from being the subject of a large-scale international condemnation. If China can’t even overwhelm the first few islands, Taiwan and Hong Kong, that stand as buffers between itself and the west, how can Beijing think it to be wise to stage a cyber offensive on some of the most established western democracies?

The TikTok affair serves as evidence that despite China’s strength and influence in global business, it will never be accepted into the core of global governance so long as its political and human rights abuses remain.

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