Gordon Chang: Biden's heart not in TikTok reprimand – but politics clearly are

Gordon Chang: Biden's heart not in TikTok reprimand – but politics clearly are

Gordon Chang: Biden's heart not in TikTok reprimand – but politics clearly are

Those silly TikTok videos that make almost 170 million Americans laugh and smile may seem harmless enough. But the Chinese government finds TikTok quite valuable.

Data security could be the new frontier in the China-U.S. relationship. It's one that many Americans take lightly … but one with major national security concerns between two rivals on a course for war, one China expert says.

The United States' recent commitment of $2 billion in aid to Taiwan drew an aggressive response from China, which has been engaged in a territorial dispute with the small island neighbor off its southeastern coast. The Chinese government has said it will take "resolute and resourceful" action to defense its own security, Fox News reported.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian stated in a media briefing last week:

"China firmly rejects the U.S. passing and signing into law the military aid package containing negative content on China. We have lodged serious representations to the U.S. This package gravely infringes upon China's sovereignty. It includes large military aid to Taiwan, which seriously violates the one-China principle … and sends a seriously wrong signal to 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces."

Gordon Chang, a lawyer, author and political commentator, said on Washington Watch Friday that he believes a military conflict is coming between the U.S. and China.

"I think so. We have to ask the question: When has a militant state with expansive territorial ambitions engaged in fast military build-up and not gone to war?" Change asked show host Jody Hice.

The U.S. needs to consider more than Taiwan in trying to determine China's next steps, Chang continued.

Chang, Gordon (author, commentator) Chang

"They're going to huff and puff about Taiwan. They're going to send their planes across the median line into Taiwan Strait, which is the boundary. They'll send their ships close to Taiwan. But what we really need to keep our eye on is what they're doing at Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines, in the South China Sea – because there, they're engaging in really belligerent activities, some of which constitute acts of war," he argued.

"And they're doing that in defiance of America's warnings that we are prepared to use force against China to discharge our obligations pursuant to our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. That's the really great flashpoint right now," Chang explained.

China, they're not like U.S.

The same Taiwan aid bill signed by President Joe Biden also gave ByteDance, the Beijing-based Chinese tech giant and parent company of TikTok, nine months to sell the popular social media platform or be banned in the U.S. A TikTok spokesperson has said the company will fight the law in court. And ByteDance officials have said repeatedly that they don't share users' information with the Chinese government.

That's a lie, says Chang.

"You got to remember we're a very different society than China. China is a communist state; it's top down – no Chinese individual, no Chinese entity can disobey an order from the Communist Party," he described. "So, when ByteDance … says it would never provide data to the Communist Party, it has no choice but to do that.

"In our country, Big Tech platforms … collect data like Tiktok does. But if they want to – and they often do – they [can] resist requests from the federal government about supplying data. We're a very different society, and I don't think that there is any equivalence here," he said.

And according to Chang, China isn't collecting data only from U.S users. He contends Beijing has been "vacuuming" up data from users worldwide for various purposes – with the intent to do harm.

"The most important thing though, it is using [data gathered through TikTok] against the United States," he emphasized. "It is getting information with which to blackmail Americans …. Remember, TikTok is on 170 million devices, which means that Beijing is getting information about more than half the American public on just one platform. It is targeting the United States, and this goes to national security," Chang said.

In his media briefing last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian balked at national security claims and argued the U.S. is just throwing its weight around:

"The legislation undermines the principles of market economy and fair competition by wantonly going after other countries' companies in the name of 'national security,' which once again reveals the U.S.'s hegemonic and bullying nature." 

Biden's heart's not in TikTok reprimand

TikTok was already banned on government devices when the Biden campaign announced its own TikTok account in February. In fact, while Biden has signed the bill to ban TikTok in the U.S., his campaign continues to maintain its account. GOP lawmakers have pointed out that hypocrisy.

Chang suggested Biden knew exactly what he was doing by giving ByteDance a nine-month window before it feels any effect from the new law.

"It shows you a lack of seriousness on the part of the administration," said the China expert. "I'm glad that he did sign the Tiktok bill last month, but the point here is that he extended the deadline for the sale of TikTok until after the Nov. 5 election. So that shows you what Biden is thinking," Chang said.

He acknowledged that it appears the Biden administration knows the problem and occasionally does something about it.

"But it doesn't really have its heart in it," said Chang. "We have known for a very long time that China uses TikTok. We need to show the same determination in protecting our data as the Chinese show in stealing it."