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Tokking Geopolitics

By Natalie Gao and Michelle Qiao Sep. 24, 2020

Jessica Lin Art

TikTok, an application that allows its users to record and share short videos of themselves, has seen a rise in popularity during COVID-19’s shelter-in-place orders. However, on Aug. 6, President Trump issued an executive order demanding TikTok and another Chinese app, WeChat, to either be banned or bought by an American company by Sept. 15. TikTok has faced pressure from U.S. investors to sell the application, but has also been met by demands from Chinese investors to retaliate against Trump.

These tactics resemble efforts over the past few years to bar U.S. companies from dealing with Huawei, a Chinese technology giant. Citing concerns over national security as justification, Trump claimed that the Chinese apps posed a serious privacy risk to user data. In reaction to these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on federal devices.

“It would be great if TikTok does not get banned as personally, I like watching TikTok. I also think they will be bought by a non-Chinese company soon, so I am not too worried,” Sophomore Jodie Chen said.

TikTok has retaliated with a lawsuit aimed at the U.S. government, requesting a judge to overturn the order. The lawsuit claims that the company does not pose a security threat, pointing to strict data controls and data centers located entirely outside of China—in the United States and Singapore. Outside experts have voiced doubts that the orders were truly made with sincere concerns over user data, but rather a political ploy intended to shift domestic politics. However, until a decision is definitely made on Nov. 12, users in the United States will not be affected by the ban. “The ban from Trump might be a political move to affect his campaign. However, we should always be careful with virtual security, ” said Junior Nethra Srinivasan.

With rising geopolitical tensions between China and the United States due to COVID-19, the Hong Kong protests and the detention of Uyghur Muslims, the TikTok ban has only worsened the relationship between the two countries. With new trade tariffs imposed on China on Aug. 23., the TikTok ban may have arisen among the Trump administration’s attempts to curb China’s economic power. The TikTok ban may simply be a result of these rising geopolitical tensions rather than just a national security issue. As conflict between the United States and China continues to brew, the TikTok ban may only worsen the United States’ relationship with China.

The TikTok ban may have a partisan effect beyond tensions with China as well. With a contentious election this Nov., banning TikTok could become part of Trump’s reelection strategy, in which Trump capitalized on economic tensions between the United States and China to gain votes—a similar strategy as in 2016. However, national surveys report 29 percent of adults support the ban, 33 percent of adults oppose it, especially young adults, who are the most prominent TikTok users.

The many accusations and retaliatory measures leave an unclear future for TikTok. Some speculate that TikTok will soon be bought by an American company, but others believe that it will shift its efforts to expansion in other countries. Regardless of TikTok’s future, this executive order may continue to escalate hostilities between the United States and China.


About the Contributors

Natalie Gao

Staff Writer

Natalie Gao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She likes playing Tetris and making mac and cheese in her free time.

Michelle Qiao

Staff Writer

Michelle Qiao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She loves to play volleyball and spends her free time reading, drinking coffee and watching Pixar movies.

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