August 10, 2020

MORE LIKE THIS, PLEASE: TikTok’s Fate Is a Bad Sign for China’s Rise.

It’s starting to look like the biggest obstacle to China’s rise as a global technology superpower may well be its own government. As long as countries around the world mistrust China’s Communist regime, they will worry about Beijing using mainland companies to gather data on users, shape media content and interfere with critical infrastructure. If those companies in turn aren’t allowed to expand globally, China could find itself stuck in an increasingly uncompetitive bubble.

That’s what’s so dangerous about the travails of Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat, as well as companies such as telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued executive orders giving anyone subject to U.S. jurisdiction 45 days to stop dealing with TikTok’s Beijing-based parent, ByteDance Ltd, as well as internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. in transactions related to its WeChat app. (Microsoft is aiming to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations before the deadline.) This follows an outright ban on TikTok and WeChat in India.

Meanwhile, last month the U.K. became the latest country to bar Huawei from its 5G telecommunications networks. And the Trump administration seems intent on going further yet. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an initiative that suggests the administration’s end goal is to scrub Chinese tech from U.S. communications networks entirely.

Beijing wants to enjoy the advantages of the global order but without playing by the rules that make orderliness possible.

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