Two events that took place almost simultaneously in Washington on March 23 local time and Beijing on March 24 had completely opposite implications. In Washington, an aggressive grueling congressional hearing that lasted more than five hours was held for TikTok, going through the process for the “complete suppression” of the multinational tech company based in Singapore and Los Angeles, but with a parent company in China.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook came to China for the first time in three years to attend the China Development Forum. He was warmly welcomed by the Chinese government and the Chinese people, along with the heads of many other industry leading companies of Fortune 500 attending the forum.
The contrast between the two events is stark and dramatic, as China’s insistence on promoting a high level of openness to the world is firm and confident compared to the US’ increasingly visible tendency of closure.
At the hearing held at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, US lawmakers asked more than 200 questions, the vast majority of which were chop logic and lacked even basic knowledge about the internet. Many lawmakers often interrupted TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew at any time, not allowing him time to give answers based on facts, and only forcing him to answer “yes” or “no” to questions about specific issues. The majority of lawmakers neither “listened” nor “proved,” but only competed to show “political correctness” and biased preconceptions.
Do the reasons for banning TikTok hold water? As some lawmakers pointed out, every accusation attributed to TikTok’s data collection can be used against large domestic tech companies in the US, but the US has never before banned social media from operating within the US. Why do lawmakers launch crusade against TikTok without criticizing other companies that operate in the same way? The Biden administration accused TikTok of posing a threat to US data security, but could not provide evidence. According to the principle of the presumption of innocence in the common law system, the charges are not established until there is evidence. But why did it work in the case of TikTok? According to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the ban on TikTok by US Congress may even be unconstitutional.
The US side has provided no evidence to support its allegation, yet it has been abusing its state power to block and suppress the company concerned. This seriously violates the principles of market economy and fair competition, of which the US claims itself to be a champion. This is a classic example of US hegemonism. The US is hurting not just the interests of the company and the American people, but also its reputation as a nation and international investors’ confidence in the US business environment. Under the headline “The US Is Scaring off Foreign Investors,” Barron’s noted that the hearing has shaken global investor confidence to its core.
From the groundless suppression launched by the US government and lawmakers against TikTok, people have realized what “rules” truly mean when the US touts about “rules-based international order.”
First, it is increasingly away from its own claims of a free market economy and fair competition. A legally operating private company was attacked in the US by the mighty power of the government, a slap in the face for their claim that “the US respects private enterprises.”
Second, it is a violation of multilateral trade rules. The essence of WTO-centered multilateral trade rules is unconditional and non-discriminatory treatment, with businesses from all economies being treated equally. The White House and the Congress have unabashedly made a strict distinction between US-based businesses and those based in foreign countries with differentiated standards and policies. The former are fostered, while the latter are suppressed.