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Why is Curtailing Chinese Technological Influence So Important?
As efforts to reign in TikTok falter in Washington the larger goal of stopping the growing influence of the Chinese Government is more important than ever
No one who has studied the influence of TikTok in any serious way would deny how dangerous the platform is. Yet, there was very little rejoicing when the RESTRICT Act was proposed last month which would have granted the federal government new and sweeping powers to curtail online content and speech. While the proposed law now seems rightly destined to fail in Congress the need to oppose the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party, who indirectly control TikTok to devastating effect, across the world and at home has never been more important.
The Great Firewall
To understand how effective the Chinese Communist Party is at using technology for nefarious purposes we must first look at how they use it against their own people. The Great Firewall of China is used to categorize their government's effort to censor and regulate the internet and the knowledge thereon. It refers to a combination of legislative and technology initiatives used to limit access to foreign information, block foreign internet sites, and require foreign companies operating in China to adhere to Chinese censorship laws.
The Chinese government abhors traditional classical liberal western ideas such as democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. They work diligently to prevent these ideas from taking root in their own country and control the flow of information to discredit these concepts. Purging these ideas from the public consciousness and criminalizing those who support them is just one of the many ways the Chinese control their people.
Further, the promotion of pro-communist content across the Chinese media, especially on platforms like TikTok, gives Beijing perhaps the most powerful propaganda apparatus in world history.
23 & Xi
In recent years a trend has swept the United States where several large companies will take a sample of your DNA and, for a price, tell you where your ancestors came from depending on genetic markers. While there are serious security concerns at home with sharing a sample of your blood with corporations that are legally required to provide a copy to the government, this is nothing compared to the dangers of it coming into the possession of the Chinese Community Party.
As detailed in the 2019 NPR Planet Money podcast, "Stuck In China's Panopticon", the Chinese government has taken the technology in to terrifying new frontiers . As explained by Yale geneticist Kenneth Kidd, the Chinese Communist Party provided him funding and samples of millions of its citizens in exchange for access to his research when it was completed. They are now using that technology to identify people they believe are “genetic” muslims and other minority groups and persecuting them if not imprisoning them.
The implications are horrifying. A China led world order could see individuals forced to provide blood samples or, in another fashion, have their blood samples repurposed to determine if they are part of an ethnic group the Chinese feel the need to be persecuted, imprisoned, or exterminated.
The rebuttal to this by many Americans is that the Chinese government does not control the United States or most other countries and therefore these abuses, while terrible, are not something to be concerned about when living your daily life. Unfortunately, the Chinese have made it clear they are not content to be second in the world order much less to respect other nations sovereignty.
Wolf War Diplomacy
Wolf War Diplomacy, named after a Chinese action film, is the assertive and aggressive diplomatic policy of the Chinese government under the Xi Jinping administration. It is a combative and coercive strategy whereby the Chinese seek to influence foreign nations through economic sanctions, unofficial trade embargos, and strong rhetoric against countries that do not take actions in line with China’s goals.
Since World War 2 and especially since the end of the Cold War the United States has been the central pole and power around which the planet is organized. As such, ideals and policies favored by the United States are favored by foreign governments even if those governments are only giving lip service to concepts such as freedom of religion or freedom to organize. China seeks to replace the United States, for all the countries of the world to reorganize themselves and their policies to be more in line with the Chinese Communist Party, both explicitly and implicitly. They have made it clear there is no limit to what they will do to become the dominant superpower on this planet. What would occur if countries stopped, at a minimum, pretended to be democracies and instead leaned into their autocratic, dictatorial urges?
One of the ways China has grown their influence is to make foreign countries rely if not completely dependent on Chinese technology. Huawei, a Chinese communication company controlled by their central government and built with stolen technology from western democracies, has spread like a cancer across the world due to lower prices and reliable service. However, as more and more communities across the world have begun using this companies wares the Chinese governments goals have become more clear. For example, in 2020 it was revealed that the headquarters of the African Union, which was built by Chinese contractors and which relies on Huawei-made servers, is riddled with spyware that routinely shares the Union’s data with Beijing . Further, in 2020 CNN reported that an FBI investigation determined that Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications and spy on government officials in Washington .
In Africa the Chinese are seeking to grow their influence by promising expansive public works projects and investments. In the United States and other western powers their strategy seems to be expanding their commercial interests to carry favor with lawmakers. In both cases, their outward actions are a smokescreen for spying on governments, corporations, and individuals alike to grow their own power.
Stealing Intellectual Property
What is even more insidious about the Chinese plans to grow their influence and power through technology is that almost all of it is stolen. Communist governments are infamous for their inability to innovate and the Chinese Communist Party is no different. However, they determined a work around.
In order to operate in China, which many international corporations want to do, the Chinese government requires disclosure of various patents. The government than takes those patents and hands them off to ‘private’ Chinese companies such as Huawei or China Sunergy, one of the biggest Chinese solar cell products manufacturers, who in turn create their own products to compete with U.S. manufacturers. The Chinese government subsides their own companies efforts so they can lower their prices and push Western companies out of business. Once the independent competitors are pushed out of the market the Chinese equivalents raise their prices to recoup their loses.
This strategy puts the conflict over Taiwan into an important context. Should China take control of the island and its production of the most advanced and important semiconductor chips in the world their ability to coerce and control other nations would be greatly increased.
The Not-So-Secret Police
Controlling markets and pressuring foreign governments is bad enough but the Chinese are expanding from the digital realm into the physical with secret police stations across the world. In recent months the Chinese government has been found to be operating quasi-police stations in the United States , Canada , and the UK  to name but a few.
Explanations for these satellite offices that were operating without the knowledge and consent of the countries within which they were located vary but it does not take a vivd imagination to see what could occur. In a world where a foreign government that is allied with the United States has already kidnapped, killed, dismembered, and smuggles the body of a citizen out of a country  does anyone believe the Chinese are not capable of similar offenses? This is a government operating concentration camps .
How long before American citizens start disappearing into these secret police headquarters for critiquing the Chinese Communist Party? How long before individuals who posted something on TikTok or whose DNA the Chinese consider is a marker for dissent find themselves on private planes bound for modern day China made gulags?
TikTok Goes The Clock
The Chinese employ a social credit system that rates their citizens based on the aggregation and analysis of data. How long before they take the data they are mining on American citizens through TikTok and their larger spying efforts and use it to grade us if they have not already? Once they do, how long before they try to use that system to find those pliant for influencing or those in need of marginalization or extermination for being too resistant to Chinese rule?
Nature abhors a vacuum. Someone has to be the biggest on the block and, if it is not you, it may be someone you do not like. The United States walked away from the responsibility that came with its power after World War I and it led to an even worse world war and atrocities that are hard to comprehend. An abdication of our responsibility again could prove even more devastating.
The Chinese Communist Party under the Xi Jinping administration now seeks to supplant the United States and traditional western liberal values with their own twisted communist collectivism. The Chinese are working to control thought through legislation, technology, and a public influence campaign the likes of which has not ben seen since Rome salted the earth of Carthage. They plan to use our very DNA and the content we are generating on sites like TikTok to monitor, control, and categorize the people of the world into subjects or enemies. Our phones are being turned against us, our innovations are being stolen, and a secret police force appears to be being built in our own country in furtherance of an assertive and aggressive diplomatic policy that wishes to destroy the current world order.
The RESTRICT Act is not the answer to these problems. The flawed legislation gives the executive branch unchecked power to censor the internet and curtails the very freedoms the Chinese wish to discredit. However, something must be done. The fight for the future of the world is happening all around us as we speak. If action is not taken before it is too late we may find ourselves in a society we no longer recognize without an ability to correct it.