EDITORIAL: TikTok is China’s Trojan horse – 台北時報

With its inventive videos and bizarre memes, TikTok once billed itself as “the last sunny corner on the Internet.” Since launching five years ago, the app has become a global sensation, amassing millions of users every year.
Despite delighting consumers and advertisers, others believe the “sunny” app has a dark side. As ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok and is headquartered in China — a nation whose government is known for surveillance and propaganda — its ownership has triggered fear about it becoming a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tool for tracking people worldwide and censoring content.
Due to national security concerns, India made the first move to ban TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps in 2020. On Dec. 5, Taiwan barred the app on public-sector devices, followed by the US Senate unanimously approving a bill on Wednesday last week to prohibit federal government employees from downloading the Chinese app.
There have also been calls to censor or ban the app in the private sector. Minister Without Portfolio and Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said more public discussion is needed to determine whether Taiwan should draft laws to completely ban the use of TikTok across the nation, as India and other countries have done.
While some legislators warmed to the idea of extending the ban from government employees to everyone, it also attracted ferocious opposition, with the main argument being that it would undermine democracy and freedom of speech.
However, as a nation under constant Chinese threat, the government has all the more responsibility to look out for the potential dangers and threats of TikTok, more so than India or even the US. The app is most popular among teenagers, who use it as a main source of news and entertainment, which heavily influences their outlook on the world.
As nations have pointed out, TikTok allows China to manipulate what the app’s vast foreign users can see. The threat is not about the harvesting of user data, but what its users learn from it. As the app’s algorithm was developed in Beijing, a tweak here or there could give more traction to videos in line with Chinese propaganda.
It is easy to stumble upon false information on the app, such as videos implying that Ukraine is at fault for its invasion by Russia. It also censors content that is politically sensitive to the Chinese government, such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Tibet and Taiwan. For an age group that is susceptible to manipulation, the app is a perfect tool for spreading pro-China ideology, propaganda and could influence national identity.
On a deeper linguistic level, along with the influence of other Chinese social media platforms, many Taiwanese have started using “Chinese” Mandarin in daily speech, such as saying “shipin” (視頻) rather than the more common “yingpian” (影片) when referring to “videos” in Taiwan.
In the words of US Senator Ted Cruz, TikTok is “a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist Party can use to influence what Americans see, hear and ultimately think.” There is no denying that TikTok, if left unchecked, could present a risk to Taiwan, especially among young people without the experience to tell true from false.
Without new safety mechanisms or other regulating measures, TikTok could easily become another seemingly innocuous yet powerful tool in China’s cognitive warfare against Taiwan. As one of the most vibrant democracies in the world, the government cannot afford to ignore the risks. While protecting freedom of speech, it also has to ensure that communication tools do not end up becoming the enemy’s fodder to chip away at Taiwan’s democracy and national identity.
The Chinese communist Party’s cruel and abusive Zero-COVID lockdown policy has been a disaster. At home, it has brought incalculable suffering to the Chinese people, while abroad it has made the country a laughingstock to the rest of the world. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Chinese people have been compelled to adhere to this draconian policy, conceived and orchestrated by Xi Jinping (習近平). Xi showed no signs of brooking compromises or changing course, despite the calamity he brought to the nation. However, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen Xi’s resolve shaken by mass protests throughout China.
For decades, Malaysia has been traditionally known as the voice of the developing and Muslim world, as well as for having a foreign outlook molded by the dictate of China. Its new leadership under Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is unlikely to alter the “status quo,” as the nation’s critical economic dependence on Beijing remains its main stumbling block. To maintain political security for the regime and the livelihoods of millions of stakeholders beholden to Beijing’s economic power, the new political elites cannot afford the risk of appealing to the West. Even with Anwar being a reformist and a darling of
China’s leaders always knew that they would eventually have to abandon their “zero COVID-19” policy, and that the longer they waited, the more painful the transition would be. Yet they seemed mired in the policy, unable to leave it behind and move on. Then, an apartment building blaze in locked-down Xinjiang killed 10 people whose escape was thwarted by locked doors and blocked entrances. This sparked China’s largest anti-government protests since the Tiananmen movement of 1989, and became the catalyst for the authorities’ decision to begin easing restrictions. The protests were an expression of the frustration and anger accumulated over about
Taiwan’s road safety has been criticized for years, but recently international media described the situation as “a living hell for pedestrians.” Meanwhile, foreigners often praise Taiwanese as the greatest charm of the country. Taiwanese frequently travel abroad. When visiting advanced countries, they are impressed by the organized traffic and road safety. Drivers and pedestrians strictly follow traffic signals. Even at intersections without a traffic signal, vehicles slow down and stop so that pedestrians can safely cross the road. After that, drivers drive away one by one in turn. Every vehicle waits in line without rushing to be the first. Foreigners celebrate Taiwan’s


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *