US may lose in TikTok war, expert warns

  • AseanPlus News
  • Monday, 10 Aug 2020

NEW YORK: As the Trump administration is threatening to ban popular social media apps including TikTok and WeChat, “the United States may lose in Trump’s TikTok war, ” warned an expert.

Wei Shangjin, professor of finance and economics at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and School of International and Public Affairs, said forcing TikTok to be sold cheaply to a “very American” buyer would endanger many US firms in the Chinese market, according to an opinion published by Project Syndicate on Thursday.

“If China were to mimic Trump’s gambit – alleging, without providing evidence, that some US multinationals are potential national security threats – it could force them to sell their operations to ‘very Chinese’ buyers.

“Although the Chinese government has not yet done so, the risk has become higher now, ” said Wei, who served as chief economist of Asian Development Bank from 2014 to 2016.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an Executive Order banning any US transactions with TikTok owner Chinese tech firm ByteDance, starting in 45 days.

TikTok has been downloaded over 175 million times in the US and over one billion times globally, according to the Executive Order.

It claimed that the app automatically captures “vast swaths of information” from its users, posing risks to US national security.

A similar executive order has also been issued for another Chinese product, WeChat, a messaging and social media app owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Although Trump’s actions could yield a short-term gain for the US, they have introduced severe potential risks to US interests, not to mention international and domestic rules of commerce, Wei said.

“After all, what would happen to business confidence if governments assumed that they could extort private enterprises at will?” Wei added.

Trump is essentially doing what the US has long accused China of doing, he said.

Among them are disrespecting private property, presuming guilt without evidence, eroding the legitimate rights of foreign firms’ without compensation, as well as using arbitrary, opaque rules to block them from operating in the country, according to Wei.

“There is still time for the Trump administration to change course and avoid damaging US interests, ” said Wei.

“But the clock is running – tick tock.” — Xinhua

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