It's no secret that governments around the world have been weary of companies from China, especially technology companies. Fears over ties between Chinese companies and the Chinese Communist Party (the ruling party in the country) have led to investigations and sometimes outright bans on certain brands. Since the administration change in the US, it looked as if a new, softer approach towards China was on the horizon, but that stance has changed quickly as more companies in the US and abroad are being challenged.
TikTok - The elephant in the room
Of course, for most people, the fight over TikTok and its parent company ByteDance has been the one in the spotlight. The company has a lot of power and reach, with children around the world being enamored by the Vine clone. Sore, some adults use the platform, but generally, it is children that TikTok is aimed towards. And it is that power over children that has brought so much attention to the platform.
The US has previously banned the use of the app from government phones, as well as personal phones associated with military members. This week, the Canadian government has taken a similar step to prevent the use of TikTok on government devices. A statement from Mona Fortier, president of Canada's Treasury Board, reads,
The decision to remove and block TikTok from government mobile devices is being taken as a precaution, particularly given concerns about the legal regime that governs the information collected from mobile devices and is in line with the approach of our international partners.
This does raise the question of why TikTok would have been on government devices in the first place, but that is a topic for another time, Beyond governmental device bans, there are outright bans. Under the US previous administration, an outright ban was in the works, with that plan being abandoned by the new administration. The Biden admin removed all restrictions and requirements and TikTok was back to normal.
However, it appears that TikTok is back in the spotlight in the US. A new bill, entitled Deterring America's Technology Adversaries Act (DATA Act), would give the administration all of the tools needed to ban the app from the country. Rep. Michael McCaul, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, said during debates on the bill,
If it's too dangerous to be on our phones as members of Congress, in my judgment it's too dangerous to be on our children's phones.
This is a solid point - if the government thinks that there are risks to data privacy and national security, then why would it be allowed at all? Add to that the growing concern over the way the app functions in the West versus how it functions in China, and you can begin to see where growing concerns are coming from.
Loongson and Inspur - The unknown dangers
While scrutiny about TikTok and ByteDance grows, concrete steps have been taken against other tech companies. This week, two more companies were added to the US blacklist - Loongson and Inspur. They join other companies, such as Huawei, in outright bans in the US.
This addition means that products and services from these companies can't be imported or used within the United States. This move was made because of the companies' ties to the CCP and the Chinese military operations. In particular, the companies acquired "U.S.-origin items in support of China's military modernization efforts." The report does not note which items were acquired, but are likely electronic or software in nature. If encryption technology was involved, the exporting companies could also face penalties under US law.