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Is the TikTok saga linked to the US-China tech competition?

The US government is mounting pressure on TikTok, the famous video-sharing app, asking it to sell the shares of its Chinese co-owners or face a ban.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the request for a change in ownership, and sources suggest the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) unanimously recommended Chinese firm ByteDance divest from TikTok to create a clear break from China. 

The US government sees ByteDance’s involvement with TikTok as a national security risk since millions of Americans have installed the app.

TikTok has disputed the reporting, saying that forced divestment would not solve the problem of national security and a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. 

This development follows years of concern from American officials that data from the popular app could fall into the hands of the Chinese government. The app has also been banned on government phones in the US, Canada, and the EU, and TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, is set to testify before the US Congress next week.
READ MORE: Explained: Why are countries banning, penalising TikTok

Competition for tech dominance

According to Adam Segal, Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, “the TikTok issue is just one example of the broader tech competition between the US and China, which is likely to intensify in the coming years.”

The competition covers a wide range of areas, including 5G, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, semiconductors, and cybersecurity, among others. 

The US and China are both major players in the global technology industry, with the US being home to many of the world’s leading tech companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. 

Meanwhile, China has become a major tech hub in recent years, with companies such as Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent gaining global recognition and influence.

The US has long been concerned about the theft of intellectual property by Chinese companies and the role of the Chinese government in supporting the country’s tech industry. 

In response, the US has implemented a range of measures to limit Chinese access to key technologies, including export controls, investment restrictions, and visa restrictions for Chinese researchers and students. 

Recently, TikTok has become a particular item of concern.

While there is no clear evidence that TikTok has been used to collect sensitive information, the potential for abuse cannot be ignored,” says Paul Triolo, head of global technology policy at Eurasia Group.

China, for its part, has sought to reduce its reliance on US-made technology and to become more self-sufficient in critical areas such as semiconductors and 5G.

This has involved significant government investment in domestic tech companies and the promotion of indigenous innovation.

The US-China tech war is seen as a key front in the broader geopolitical and economic competition between the two countries, which also includes trade, finance, and military power. 

The outcome of this competition could have significant implications for the global balance of power and the future of the technology industry.

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