How the Theatrics of Banning TikTok Enables Repression at Home

China’s policy analysts and technology regulators have recently attempted to understand the U.S. threats to banning TikTok and WeChat. What do the requirements of such a ban mean for technical regulation? If the US government is willing to exert such an influence over private cellular operators, what could it mean for other forms of data? Is a swap game of app bans really a useful way to enforce data protection without applying a broader set of rules like the general data protection regulation of Europe? What does a blanket ban – for surveillance reasons but with no technical evidence – mean in light of the fact that the US continues to use “sanctioned” surveillance hardware by Chinese companies?

These are all legitimate questions if you still believe we live in a functioning democracy. The Trump administration’s bans on WeChat and TikTok as well as theClean networkThe campaign, which would ban Chinese telecommunications companies, cloud providers, and undersea cables from American internet infrastructure, should instead be seen as part of their attempt to increase the power of the executive branch. While global free market proponents worry about a fragmented Internet, they are missing the big picture: Trump’s technological authoritarianism is accelerating the growth of corporate power.

ONE Study 2018 showed that Trump’s supporters are motivated by racism, sexism and anti-Chinese sentiment. Therefore, it makes sense for the Trump administration to take a stance against China in a motion for re-election. The Beijing ghost helps fuel two main fears: a socialist “big government” and a socialist “outside influence” on American politics. The “yellow danger” narrative is racist, but what is more important is how that racism is used. With a casual nod and wink, Trump portrays China as a threat to “individual freedom” – the kind of freedom that allows white native terrorists to argue over guns in state capitals.

The opposition to the socialist left – both real and imaginary, in the US and abroad – is so feverish that some of Trump’s supporters are willing to see their fellow Americans die of the coronavirus rather than join a “big government” subject. In other words, the neoliberal views of Trump’s grassroots do not contradict authoritarian power. Rather, as theorists like Wendy Brown point out, such views deliberately dissolve and dissolve democracy society, do “Freedom a pure instrument of power.

It has historical precedent to portray China (despite its state capitalist reality) as a formidable socialist state in order to deepen internal oppression. Before the US-Chinese “Tech Cold War” there was the actual Cold War, in which the “Third World” countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia reaffirmed their freedom of choice vis-à-vis European colonial rulers. At the time, the question for American men in the ranks of power was: would these emerging economies choose socialism or democracy?


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