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What TikTok ban in America could mean for China



What TikTok ban in America could mean for China

Widely popular social media platform TikTok, faces a critical juncture in the United States, with Congress greenlighting legislation that could compel its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app within the next year or risk a national ban.

This move not only threatens to deal a significant blow to China’s technological aspirations but also exacerbates the growing chasm between the digital spheres of the world’s two economic powerhouses.

The bill, expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden, has sparked heated debates, with TikTok already signaling its intent to challenge the legislation in court.

Beijing has vehemently opposed any forced sale of the app, amending export control regulations to potentially block such a move on national security grounds, leaving ByteDance with limited options to secure TikTok’s future in its largest market, boasting 170 million users.

Alex Capri, a research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation, emphasizes that a forced sale of TikTok in the US, especially without approval for its algorithms from the Chinese government, could significantly diminish the app’s appeal. The potential consequences extend beyond US borders, with scrutiny likely to increase in other liberal democracies where ByteDance operates.

In the event that ByteDance is unable to relinquish TikTok’s algorithm due to Chinese government restrictions, a sale may proceed without this integral component, impacting the platform’s functionality and appeal. Such a scenario could benefit competitors like YouTube, Google, and Instagram, while dealing a considerable setback to ByteDance’s global aspirations.

Moreover, the proposed ban on TikTok threatens to deepen the technological divide between the US and China, with implications ranging from data infrastructure ownership to semiconductor development. Richard Windsor, a tech industry analyst, underscores that this divide could extend beyond app platforms, encompassing various facets of the global tech landscape.

Despite the potential setbacks, Beijing sees a silver lining in the TikTok ban, anticipating renewed efforts to expand China’s digital influence in Southeast Asia and other developing markets.

The legislation, tucked into a broader foreign aid package supporting nations like Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, grants ByteDance a year to comply with the sale mandate before facing an effective ban on the platform.

US officials have long voiced concerns over TikTok’s national security implications, citing fears of data sharing with the Chinese government and content manipulation. However, TikTok has consistently refuted these allegations.