China has once again urged the United States to stop spreading false information about data security issues and unreasonably suppressing related companies. This comes as the US government is yet to provide evidence that Chinese-owned short video platform TikTok poses a threat to US national security. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made the call for an open, fair and nondiscriminatory environment for companies from all countries to invest and operate in the US during a daily news briefing.
Wang’s remarks come after a Wall Street Journal report quoted anonymous sources as saying that the administration of US President Joe Biden has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance sell its stakes in the popular video-sharing app or face a possible US ban on the app. China has always held that the data security issue should not be a tool that some countries leverage to generalize the concept of national security and abuse state power to suppress companies from other countries, Wang said.
Meanwhile, TikTok continues to assert that a ban or divestment won’t solve the problem of national security issues, saying that neither option solves the issues of data access or transfer. The company argues that forced sale won’t resolve national security issues.
The move by the US has been criticized by experts who argue that such practices not only affect the normal business activities of Chinese companies in the US but also harm the rights of US consumers. TikTok has gained wide popularity among the country’s younger generation. Li Yong, deputy head of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, has criticized the US government for using political measures to crack down on Chinese companies operating in the US, which he calls a kind of hegemony that severely damages TikTok’s corporate image and reputation, and also violates international economic and trade rules.
In response to these concerns, TikTok has announced a $1.5 billion plan known as “Project Texas” aimed at bolstering data security through storing US-based user data in the servers of US tech company Oracle. The company has also announced new measures to strengthen the protection of user data in Europe, including introducing security gateways that will determine employee access to European TikTok user data and data transfers outside of Europe. The company also plans to build its second data center in Ireland and another in Norway, with all data centers being co-location sites operated by third-party service providers.