President Trump is moving to ban the widely popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok. The decision, while controversial, is a step in the right direction towards rectifying the lopsided and exploitative relationship between Washington and Beijing.
While concerns about data privacy and censorship are probably overblown (Tik Tok is no different from Facebook in this regard ), there is an economic angle that many people are overlooking.
For decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has flagrantly and routinely undermined American businesses through mandatory joint-ventures, intellectual property theft, and protectionism. It’s time to return the favor.
Sometimes fighting fire with fire is the best form of economic self-defense, and U.S. authorities need to level the playing field between American companies and their Chinese counterparts.
The economic relationship between China and the U.S. has historically been lopsided. China offered cheap, skilled labor, and in return, the U.S. outsourced a massive chunk of its entire manufacturing base to the Asian nation. China used this opportunity to replicate American manufacturing processes through forced technology transfers and joint ventures.
American companies tolerated this unfair situation for a chance at access to China’s massive consumer market, but the CCP has undermined them every step of the way.
The CCP banned Facebook in 2009 –supposedly over its role in facilitating communication among Xinjiang separatists. China went on to ban Google in 2010, only to replace it with a vastly-inferior copy-cat called Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU). Even American companies that haven’t been banned have seen their market shares tank because of CCP sabotage and intellectual property theft.
According to a survey conducted by the Beijing-based American Chamber of Commerce in China, U.S. companies are having a hard time in China–due in part to the actions of the CCP.
More than half of respondents in the technology sector say they are mistreated compared to their Chinese counterparts. Nearly one-fifth of respondents have moved or are considering moving capacity outside of the country.
The situation is so bad that it has even affected China-based YouTube vloggers , many of whom fled the country due to government harassment in late 2019.
On July 31, President Trump confirmed his plans to ban ByteDance’s TikTok app from operating in the United States, a move the administration had been mulling for weeks. There is still some uncertainty about how the ban will be enforced.
According to Reuters , ByteDance has already agreed to divest TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MFST), which will now be in charge of protecting all of TikTok’s American user data. It is still unclear if Trump will accept this deal–or if he even has the power to reject it if he doesn’t.
Either way, it’s time for the U.S. to fight fire with fire and treat Chinese companies the same way China treats American companies. Banning TikTok is a good first step.