Some Thoughts on TikTok

TikTok is a video messaging app that was developed in the People’s Republic of China and is owned by ByteDance, another PRC company. The Wall Street Journal published a Q&A on the app last Tuesday.

I have some thoughts, too.

For background, here are some of the data that TikTok collects just because you’re using it.

…location data and your internet address, according to its privacy policy, and it tracks the type of device you are using to access its platform. It stores your browsing and search history as well as the content of messages you exchange with others on the app.

Distractions

Much is being made of the cybersecurity threat, the national security threat, that the People’s Republic of China’s Huawei represents. For instance, Senator Ben Sasse (R, NE) has said it’s good for the British government to be removing Huawei from the core of the British Internet.

Senator Mark Warner (D, VA):

Huawei has been and will continue to be a national security threat….

Senator Tom Cotton (R, AR) on the Brits’ initial decision to allow Huawei into their Internet infrastructure:

[t]he Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will now have a foothold to conduct pervasive espionage on British society.

Disingenuosity

Thy name is TikTok. India has banned TikTok along with a potful of other PRC apps on national security—cybersecurity—grounds. In response, TikTok’s CEO Kevin Mayer said that

Chinese authorities had never requested the data of their Indian users, and even if they had, the company wouldn’t comply.

Right.

“Never requested” is a cynically offered non sequitur. Not having been asked is entirely separate from never will be asked.

It’s more serious than that, though. The People’s Republic of China enacted a law in 2017 that requires all PRC-domiciled companies to comply with PRC intel community requests for information. Not “pretty please,” not “strongly encouraged.” It’s “stand and deliver, stand in violation of law.”

Occupation by Remote Control

Details of the People’s Republic of China’s overt takeover of Hong Kong via its new “security” law have been released by the government organ Xinhua News Agency. The high points, summarized by OANN, are these:

  • Hong Kong must establish a “local” national security council to enforce legislation, headed by the city’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam
    • to be supervised and guided by a new PRC commission specially created for the purpose
    • a PRC “adviser” will be a member of the council
  • New local police and prosecution units to be set up to investigate, enforce the new law
    • backed by PRC security and intelligence officers deployed to the new commission

Errant Satrap

That’s how the European Union views Great Britain as the EU continues to demand that Great Britain accede to demands they wish to impose on a sovereign nation—solely to bring that subordinate polity to heel. Examples of the EU’s demands:

  • post-Brexit sovereignty to make Britain more competitive via deregulation, environmental rules or tax reform—these must not occur
  • UK’s ability to subsidize industries in line with EU state-aid regulations—this must be curtailed

The first must not be allowed explicitly because of that competition. The second may be bad business overall, but it’s a domestic matter.

And this, regarding tariffs:

Troops in Germany

President Donald Trump has said he intends to reduce the number of American soldiers in Germany.

Germany, he said, is not meeting its commitment to spend 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense as required by the NATO alliance. Member nations had pledged to reach the 2% threshold by 2024. Germany has said it hopes to reach the target by 2031.

Which is a cynical commitment by Germany, since there will be several generations of German governments over the intervening 11 years.

But here’s the kicker, from Emily Haber, Germany’s Ambassador to the US:

“American Retreat from Europe”

Congressman Mac Thornberry (R, TX), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, has misunderstood the American situation in Europe. In his Thursday Wall Street Journal op-ed, he asserted that

press reports surfaced of a proposal, backed by some in the administration, to withdraw a significant number of troops from Europe….

His piece went on in that vein.

Thornberry is badly mistaken along a number of dimensions.

First, the alleged withdrawal of troops is from Germany, not from Europe.

Timidity, or What’s the Point?

The European Union is claiming to be dismayed with the People’s Republic of China and with Russia over their

“targeted” campaigns to spread health hoaxes and false information about the [Wuhan Virus].

In a “statement,” the European Commission wrote

Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighborhood, and globally….

And

a “massive wave” of health care hoaxes, false claims, online scams, hate speech, and COVID-19 coronavirus conspiracy theories circulating on social media platforms—as well as attempts by foreign actors to insert themselves in domestic EU issues.
“Such coordination [by third country actors] reveals an intention to use false or misleading information to cause harm[.]”

A Misunderstanding

In an article centered on reports that President Donald Trump is planning to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany—relocating at least some of them to Poland—Bernd Riegert had the following:

[T]he US personnel [to be removed from Germany] essentially work within the framework of NATO for the Pentagon’s European and Africa Commands. They operate the Ramstein airbase, a military hospital and a military training facility. They are important pillars of NATO infrastructure, but they do not, strictly speaking, contribute much to Germany’s national defense.

Wow.

It’s Time

The People’s Republic of China has begun welching on its trade agreement with the US. Government-controlled companies buying American farm products have begun canceling their orders to American farmers, orders made under that agreement. So far, the canceled orders amount to chump change.

However.

“A handful of shipments of livestock feed, corn, pork, cotton and some meat imports are pushed back,” said a senior Chinese shipping executive involved in China farm imports who asked not to be identified and who has been briefed on Beijing’s move.
“Private Chinese exporters are not part of this, but it could escalate, depending on how the relationship between the US and China goes forward,” this executive said.