TikTok Ban Most Harmful to U.S. Relations with China

Banning TikTok could set a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow.

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and share short videos set to music or other sounds. It is extremely?popular, especially among younger generations, due to?easy?use and ability to quickly create and share entertaining content. TikTok’s algorithm also plays a significant role in its success, as it tailors content to each user’s interests and preferences, leading to an addictive and personalized user experience. As of 2021, TikTok had?over 1 billion active users worldwide and?had been downloaded over 2 billion times on the App Store and Google Play combined.

However, the U.S. government has expressed “concerns” over?the national security implications of TikTok due to its ownership by the Chinese company Byte Dance. In August 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would have banned TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it was sold to an American company. The order cited concerns about TikTok’s potential to share user data with the Chinese government, though no evidence of this?had?been given. TikTok challenged the order in court, and in December 2020, a federal judge granted an injunction against the ban, effectively allowing TikTok to continue operating in the United States. Currently, the Biden administration has continued to investigate TikTok’s data practices and has put some restrictions on its use by government employees. Biden had invited some TikTok users and influencers to support him in voting.

Banning TikTok would have a far-reaching negative impact on “freedom in?speech” and creativity that Washington always hails. The platform has been used as a means of creative expression and a platform for social activism. It has given a voice to marginalized communities and allowed them to express themselves in a unique and creative way. TikTok has also provided a space for people to share their opinions and connect with others who share their interests. Banning TikTok would stifle these voices and limit the ability of people to express themselves in a meaningful way.

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Mar. 23, 2023. (Photo/VCG)

In addition to stifling creativity, banning TikTok could also have economic consequences. The app has become a source of income for many creators who have built a following and partnerships with brands. In the U.S. alone, TikTok has reportedly generated over $2 billion in revenue. Banning the app could cause financial harm to these creators and the businesses that rely on TikTok for advertising and marketing purposes.

Moreover, the ban on TikTok could create a ripple effect on other social media platforms and their willingness to allow free expression. The restrictions imposed on TikTok could set a precedent for other social media platforms and could embolden the U.S. government to censor or ban other apps based on the so-called national security concerns. This could lead to a larger issue of government censorship and limit the ability of individuals to express their opinions freely.

As a matter of fact, there is no substantive?evidence supporting?the accusation that TikTok poses a threat to U.S.?national security. For users’ data, TikTok does nothing different from what other social media apps like Facebook and Instagram do. Furthermore, TikTok has stated clearly that it stores users’ data in the U.S. and has established transparency regulations to allow third-party audits of its data practices.

Additionally, a number of independent studies and analyses have found no evidence that TikTok is a threat to national security. In fact, many experts have noted that the app is no different from other social media platforms when it comes to data collection and privacy concerns. The lack of evidence has led some critics to argue that the push to ban the app in the Congress is politically motivated.

People gather outside Capitol Hill last week in support of TikTok on Mar. 22, 2023. (Photo/VCG)

When U.S. politicians accuse TikTok of posing a threat to national security and attempt to ban it, they place themselves on legally questionable grounds. Indeed, banning the popular social media app, may conflict with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which specifically guarantees freedom of speech. In September 2020, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to ban TikTok, ruling that the government had “provided no evidence that TikTok’s operations in the United States have ever posed a national security threat”.?Despite this ruling, the debate over TikTok’s alleged threat to national security continues, with the Biden administration continuing to investigate the app’s data practices and having banned it on government-issued devices.

Furthermore, banning TikTok could have negative consequences for international relations and trade. It has been regarded as a part of tech war and a political move against China, enhancing?tension between the two countries. It could also have an impact on U.S. businesses that have partnerships or financial interests in China. A trade war between the U.S. and China could lead to economic instability and harm businesses on both sides. The Chinese investment on TikTok would suffer a great loss if it is forced to be sold to an American company, which would also bring a heavy blow on the reputation of the U.S. business environment?that boasts “very friendly” to private business.

Banning TikTok could set a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow. If the U.S. government can ban an app based on “national security concerns” without concrete evidence, then other governments may follow suit in dealing with the Internet and apps. This could lead to a slippery slope of internet censorship and violate the principles of free speech and open access to information.

The TikTok ban could be seen as a part of tech protectionism by Washington, which would damage the already strained relationship with China. Meanwhile, the ban could have negative impacts on millions of American users who use TikTok as a source of entertainment and income. This could lead to backlash from young Americans who feel unfairly targeted by the ban, and it could create a negative perception of the U.S. government in the eyes of these users.

Finally, the ban could signal a further escalation in the ongoing tech war against China. The U.S. has already targeted many Chinese technology companies such as Huawei and ZTE, and a TikTok ban would indicate that the U.S. government is willing to take more aggressive actions to “limit China’s technological influence” even though it is an American company with Chinese investment only.


The author is a commentator of international relations and a Ph. D. Candidate of International Relations, Macau University of Science and Technology.

The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.