Alibaba’s CT image analytics technology is used in COVID-19 treatment. Photo courtesy of AilHealth.
Alibaba’s CT image analytics technology is used in COVID-19 treatment. Photo courtesy of AilHealth.

by Xinhua writer Zhang Xin

TikTok said Monday that it has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Treasury Department about the future of its operation in the United States, while U.S. company Oracle confirmed itself to be a “technology partner” with the video-sharing platform.

The potential partnership, squeezed out of a ban threatened by the current U.S. administration over so-called national security concerns, constitutes more of a marriage at gunpoint than one by mutual consent, and offers an unmistakable testimony to an increasingly self-dealing and overbearing Washington.

These days, the pretext of national security has been stretched too thin in Washington. When those White House decision-makers seek to hike tariffs on foreign imports, they invoke national security; when they intend to turn away immigrants or international students, they claim national security is at risk; and when they try to crush ByteDance and other Chinese tech firms, they are sounding the same false alarm. In each and every case, it seems that they never bother to give any conclusive evidence.

In TikTok’s case, citing potential data manipulation at the cost of the United States is merely a smoke screen as the United States itself is known as the world’s top hacker with a notorious record of cyber espionage and spying on foreign leaders through programs such as PRISM, Equation Group and ECHELON.

Then what are the real motivations behind Washington’s predatory attack on TikTok?

One major calculation is driven by Washington’s impulse to take out in a pre-emptive manner whoever it deems posing a threat to America’s technological or economic edge. The U.S. government has a long history of adopting a whac-a-mole approach to suppress potential challengers by means of coercion and intimidation, preying on a list of global industry leaders including Japan’s Toshiba and the French conglomerate Alstom.

And for TikTok, it is reported that the ever growing jealousy of such U.S. tech giants as Facebook over the Chinese company’s huge success in the United States has lent Washington a pretext to step in.

If TikTok falls, Facebook would be the biggest winner in short video sharing sector, a Wall Street Journal report said, adding that “the social-media giant has taken an active role in raising concerns about the popular app and its Chinese owners.”

And for those China hawks in the White House, being tough on China has always been their tactic to pander to their voting base, particularly when the November election is less than two months away. A Bloomberg opinion piece commented late last month that the U.S. administration’s piratical TikTok move is “a politicized, election-year effort to play up anti-China sentiment.”

At the moment, it may seem that the White House has had its way, yet Washington will lose more than it can get eventually.

Washington politicians have long been the loudest chanter of market rules. Ironically, they, by battering foreign companies willfully, are tearing apart widely accepted codes of conduct regulating commercial activities, and throwing away the spirit of free enterprise and fair competition. As a result, foreign investors’ confidence in the U.S. markets will be further eroded, and may crumble at some point.

Also, by crowding out normal market competition, Washington is in fact undermining American firms’ ability to grow and thrive in the face of tough market challenges in the long run.

Furthermore, Washington’s digital piracy would trigger similar moves in other parts of the world, which could end up hurting U.S. businesses overseas.

In this age of economic globalization, it is wiser that Washington join the rest of the international community to create and preserve a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment.

Preying on foreign enterprises on an ill-founded pretext won’t make America safer or stronger. If the United States continues with its bullying tactics, it will ultimately pay a heavy price.

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