The big story today at David Pierce’s Source Code, ‘China might lose TikTok, but the real fight’s just starting’:
ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming is furious. As negotiations continue between TikTok, Trump and Microsoft, Zhang told his employees that “this is not their goal, or even what they want. Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban.” Zhang also disagreed with the CFIUS decision that ByteDance has to sell TikTok U.S., saying that the company has “always firmly protected the security of users’ data, the platform’s independence and transparency.”
China’s state-run media took things even further. “The U.S. administration’s bullying of Chinese tech companies stems from data being the new source of wealth and its zero-sum vision of ’American first,’” read an editorial in the China Daily, accompanied by a truly extraordinary picture you really need to see.
The editorial also called Trump’s move on TikTok a “theft” and a “smash and grab” and vowed it had “plenty of ways to respond.”
On the one hand, I imagine it must sound pretty bad to all of China that the US is just forcing TikTok out of a Chinese company’s hands; on the other hand, the Chinese government is almost certainly using TikTok as a data harvesting tool against American citizens, and I think it’s right for the Trump Administration to act. (How they’re acting, of course, is another story.)
And Yiming has every right to be furious, but I think he’s furious at the wrong government. China makes it very difficult to trust them: they have massive surveillance, censorship, and human rights violations. If ByteDance was located in South Korea, France, or even Hong Kong, this would be a very different story.
There are a lot of American companies that can’t do business in China because of Chinese laws and censorship; Chinese companies used to have very few restrictions on doing business in the US. This is changing, and with Trump and Xi in control (for now), it’s like Pierce says, “the real fight’s just starting.”