China Says United States Calls for TikTok Sell-Off Racist
China’s Foreign Ministry has accused the United States of applying unfair standards after it demanded that the Chinese owners of the popular social media platform TikTok sell their stake or face a US ban on the app.
Wang stated that no evidence has been presented that TikTok poses a threat to US national security and that the ban was racist. His remarks come after reports that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multi-agency federal taskforce that examines the national security implications of foreign investments, had asked TikTok to divest its ownership.
The dispute also comes as a growing number of US leaders and lawmakers say they want the popular app banned to prevent Beijing from tracking and propagandizing to American citizens.
“The United States should stop disseminating misinformation about data security, stop suppressing the relevant company, and provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for foreign businesses to invest and operate in the United States,” Wang said at a press conference on Thursday.
“Data security issues should not be used by some countries as a tool to overstretch the concept of national security, abuse state power, and unjustifiably suppress the enterprises of other countries,” he said.
CFIUS, which is led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and has been investigating Beijing-based TikTok owner ByteDance since it purchased the American-owned service musical.ly in 2017, told TikTok on Wednesday that it could be banned if ByteDance does not sell its controlling stake to US-based owners.
Bipartisan agreement on TikTok
Former US President Donald Trump previously signed an order to ban TikTok in 2020, but TikTok filed an appeal, and the order was blocked by a federal judge who ruled Trump had overstepped his authority.
Proponents of a ban have since concentrated their efforts on CFIUS, which has been chastised for its tardiness, and, increasingly, on Congress.
The growing movement to outlaw TikTok, which is currently the fifth-most downloaded free app in the Apple App Store and the third-most popular in the Google Play App Store, has resulted in a rare area of bipartisan policy agreement in the United States Congress this year.
Senators from both parties introduced legislation last week that would explicitly allow the executive branch to prohibit any foreign-owned technology deemed a threat to national security, with the White House issuing a statement in support of the legislation as it was announced.
The group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, stressed that the bill was not solely aimed at TikTok – but also had difficulty speaking about anything other than the Chinese-owned app at a press conference.
“I’ve long been concerned about how every social media company uses the data it collects on users,” South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, who co-sponsored the bill, said at the time. “However, I’m particularly concerned about TikTok’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party, which spies on American citizens on a regular basis.”
China’s TiKTok CEO summoned
Despite such threats from lawmakers, TikTok spokespeople have repeatedly referred to the company’s cooperation in the CFIUS investigation as evidence of its cooperation with US authorities on the issue of privacy.
According to them, TikTok has made a number of proposals to CFIUS in order to separate its data on US users from its Chinese-owned parent, including allowing audits of its technology. However, US lawmakers such as Warner and Thune have questioned the credibility of any such proposal.
“The Chinese Communist Party of China has demonstrated in recent years that it is willing to lie about almost anything,” Thune said last week.
TiKTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify next Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
McMorris Rogers stated earlier this year in a press release that she believes TikTok has “knowingly allowed the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data” and urged Shou to “provide complete and honest answers for people” in her testimony.
U.S. lawmaker wants TikTok to protect kids
The chair of a House of Representatives committee wants TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to answer questions about the popular Chinese-owned video app’s efforts to protect children from inappropriate content and potential exploitation next week.
Chew will appear before Congress for the first time on March 23 when he testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Republican Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers stated on Thursday that lawmakers “need to know what actions the company is taking to keep our children safe from online and offline harms.”
In a December letter to TikTok, McMorris Rodgers and other Republicans stated that “many children are exposed to non-stop offerings of inappropriate content that TikTok’s algorithm force-feeds to them.” They also expressed concern that adult TikTok users can offer monetary rewards to “persuade children to perform sexually suggestive acts” during live-streamed events on TikTok.
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, stated that the Biden administration threatened to ban the app in the US if its Chinese owners did not sell their stakes in the company.
“Americans deserve to know the extent to which ByteDance-owned TikTok’s relationship with China jeopardizes their privacy and manipulates their data,” she added. The US government has expressed concern that TikTok user data could be shared with the Chinese government.
TikTok, which did not immediately respond, announced earlier this month that it is working on a tool that will allow parents to prevent their teens from viewing content on the short-form video app that contains certain words or hashtags.
TikTok has announced new features to assist users in limiting the amount of time they spend on the app. Accounts belonging to users under the age of 18 will be automatically limited to one hour per day, and teens will be required to enter a passcode to continue using the app.
TikTok and the Biden administration have been negotiating data security requirements for more than two years. TikTok claims to have spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and denies any allegations of spying.