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HEATING UP: US-China Conflict Rises As TikTok CEO Plans Visit to Washington

When Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, appears in Washington D.C. in March, this could potentially increase stress regarding not only the safety of the widely-loved video platform but also global politics.

Scorching Tensions Between US & China

The US has been voicing its worry over China's aggressive attitude towards Taiwan and its economic supremacy. An Air Force general with reference to Taiwan predicted that a war between the US and China may arise by 2025, as indicated in a memorandum sent to NBC news on Friday. A defense department official made it clear that this outlook does not necessarily represent the opinion of the US government.

On March 23, Chew, a 40-year-old Singaporean, will attend a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This is no ordinary event; something greater is happening than just the amusement of the app that has taken off with America's youth.

Chew will likely use the upcoming congressional committee meeting to formally defend its position as a private company, discuss its security strategies, and dissuade US government officials’ concerns about leaking American user data to the CCP.

In 2022 data from Pew, it has been revealed that TikTok is the second most used app among American teens, with 95% of those surveyed spending their time on YouTube and 67% on TikTok. Other commonly used apps include Instagram, Twitch, and Snapchat, although it's noteworthy that TikTok is the only foreign app on the list. TikTok is so ubiquitous that it's evolved to become a part of most young people’s everyday lives, for better or worse.

This is yet another source of contention, offering a vision of a different future web, one not governed by the US or its mendaciously touted values of ‘privacy,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘security’. This is why the US has likewise taken action against the Chinese telecoms organization Huawei and has restricted exports to other Chinese companies. Put simply, the success of China here appears to be a condemnation of American ideals.

But, this is hypocritical, no? Surely, US leaders can’t genuinely believe they protect data security and free speech. Let’s not forget that our federal government is still currently anathematizing the free world’s champion, Edward Snowden, for releasing thousands of classified government documents back in 2013 revealing NSA surveillance programs and unconstitutional spying habits on millions of American citizens. Our government leaders still refuse to pardon him, or other whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning for that matter.

We know Zuck has been under scrutiny for years now, and rightfully so, for Meta (formerly known as Facebook) selling millions of users' personal information and data. Now, Matt Taibbi & the Twitter Files have unmasked the public-private censorship bureaucracy consisting primarily of Twitter, private industry, and government officials from not only the FBI & DHS, but almost every other department in the government.

The US has a disastrous track record when it comes to privacy, social media, and government, and the skeletons are still falling out of the closet. Despite this marred reality, Washington’s concerns about the Chinese video platform are probably still legitimate as oppugning TiKTok on March 23 seems to be the newest obstacle to overcome against Beijing.

TikTok’s Biggest Headache: Its Ownership

ByteDance, one of the many internet heavyweights that have emerged from China in the last ten years, currently has control over the social media app, TikTok.

President Xi Jinping's government provides tighter regulation for Chinese tech companies, as evidenced by how a number of tech leaders have surrendered control of their corporations following pressure from the state.

In 2021, the Chinese government took a stake in ByteDance's domestic unit and subsequently acquired special “golden shares” in businesses like Alibaba and Tencent. This provides them with exclusive rights, veto power, and board seats, as reported by Reuters.

The CEO of TikTok will be tasked with responding to questions of security, initially put forth by Donald Trump, regarding the transmission of data from American users to China.

The company recognizes that its origins present a difficulty, so it has proposed certain compromises, such as enhanced US surveillance, to try and avert penalties or an absolute prohibition.

Since ByteDance is still the proprietor, it will be tough to persuade politicians that those in charge in Beijing are not using their dominance to gain unauthorized access to important information, regardless of the internal protocols that have been implemented.

In December, ByteDance personnel in both the US and China were revealed to have utilized the TikTok app to gain information about certain individuals, including Forbes journalists, such as their IP addresses to trace their location and ascertain how they were obtaining internal data.

The company's acknowledgment of potentially disregarding democratic liberties is a bad look for an entity that is attempting to present itself as a guardian of user privacy. In response, US Senators were profoundly outraged and will likely ask probing questions.

Chew will have to make a case to American legislators that safeguards for TikTok and ByteDance users can be implemented. His words will be carefully examined not only in the US but also in China. His presentation won't only be about defending the app and its operation, but it will also be an exercise in diplomacy.

Retired General Warns US Military Is Not Ready for War with China

Tensions between China and the West, particularly the U.S., have been ongoing but intensified last year due to increased Chinese military activity around Taiwan. This island, situated off the Chinese coast, considers itself independent, while China maintains it is part of its territory and is essential to its reunification agenda.

At a time when tensions are escalating, General Mike Minihan, a four-star Air Force leader who heads the Air Mobility Command, intimated in a memo to his commanders last week that armed conflict between the United States and China by 2025 is a real possibility. This would represent a drastic intensification of confrontation between two of the most influential militaries in the world.

Earlier this week, retired U.S. General Jack Keane cautioned that the U.S. military is not adequately equipped to fight a conflict with China.

In a Monday interview on Fox News, Keane highlighted the possibility of the U.S. being ill-equipped in the event of a conflict.

"The reality is, and what we should focus on, is the fact that we are not as prepared as we should be. We do not have an effective military deterrence in the region. China has more ships, more planes, and more missiles than the United States has," he said, adding that includes "our allies wrapped into that."

Keane has persisted in voicing his concerns regarding Taiwan's preparedness for combat, likening it to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that has been at the forefront of European political discourse since Putin initiated his "special military operation" in Ukraine back in February of last year.

Keane highlighted the $19 billion worth of equipment that Taiwan's government has already paid for but is still awaiting shipment from the U.S. He then asserted that it is essential for Congress to take action and rectify the situation to guarantee Taiwan's ability to defend itself against any potential strikes.

He articulated that we must aid Taiwan and address our own issues. That, he said, is the main concern. He further suggested that in order to avoid conflict, we should be proactive and prepared. In this way, we can prevent war from happening.

General Keane noted that he believes a war is not imminent in the near term, but it is certainly possible. He continued to say that the statement from the other person raises the expectation of war in the next couple of years, but it is a subjective analysis that results in any kind of conclusion.

He remarked that, despite the Chinese's lack of combat experience as they have not been engaged in any wars, they would still be able to fight if war were to break out presently.

Despite this, he accepted that the US requires more naval vessels, observing that the Navy that succeeds is usually the one that has the largest armada.

He highlighted the U.S.'s cutting-edge silicon chip technology, which China does not possess, as a major advantage for America. This technology is employed for the operation of ships, aircraft, and artillery.

He asserted that, without having state-of-the-art chips, one could not gain an edge in a conflict. The outlook for WWIII will be determined by microchips & data.

It’s not looking as good for the U.S. as you may think… but does China really want the smoke?

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