AnalysisScience & Tech

The untold truth about Tik Tok and its impact on economic diplomacy

By Tafadzwa Rutsvara

It is an important realization that after the years of rising global connectivity, the anti- globalization blowback has exhibited in the rise of techno-nationalism.  Techno-nationalism sees a nation states using their superiority in specific technologies and rise up the global hierarchy and dominate others.

The motif of implementing such a stride by China which runs antipathetically to the techno-globalization is to reduce reliance on foreign technology and promote domestic innovation. Techno- globalization by definition seeks the free flow of technologies and sharing innovation in order to amass countries on a shared platform to solve problems.

The rise of Tik tok is a true manifestation of techno- nationalism in which China has found a way to use their technological advancements as leverage to forge ahead in the global order. While Facebook is for sharing pictures, Twitter for dogmatic ranting and Instagram is pageant of how popular, Tik Tok has a puerile easiness, a platform where you can rave in your house, capture animal antics and share other slivers of your personal life. 

It is judicious, to note that this preposterous video sharing app is the first Chinese Company to truly break through to the American and global consciousness, something its compatriots have yet to do including Alibaba.

As the publicity over Tik Tok have shown, government actions by different countries such as India and US indicates that this is not just show off platform but fundamentally connected to encode and decode information.

The immediate worry is that Tik Tok could be a powerful vacuity sucking up images of and details on suspecting Americans to feed Beijing’s insatiable enthusiasm. Albeit these complications with Tik Tok, the abrupt ban of the functionality of the app could prove very costly for maintaining Bilateral and Multilateral relation. This is explicit when one considers the ban of Tik Tok by India during the tensions along the border with China and the attempted ban by Trump’s USA and importantly the formulation of coherent strategy against Beijing and decoupling from China economically and technologically.  Therefore, what remains is that technology is used as a political and diplomatic tool, as nations that have typically led the tech industry are becoming cagey of the possibility of the misuse in the hands of China.

One of the expert Michael Brown prodigiously put forward the idea that “the United States is in a superpower marathon with China, an economic and technology race in which the US must compete with rather than contain China”.  This think piece has shown that the tech competition manifesting in a variant ways has reverberating consequences on economic diplomacy.

While it is an undisputable fact and an embolsened point that US has maintained it s position as the technologically dominant power for decades, China have made immense investment and implemented policies that have contributed significantly to its economic growth and global influence.  Thus in responding to China’s maturation as the second-largest economy in the world, Chinese leaders have called for their nation’s transformation into a strong trading power.

To this end, they have directed reforms to deepen China’s integration as a regional economy, modify international trade rules and standards and secure needed technology, resources and markets to improve China’s competitiveness.

Senator Josh Hawley noted that Chinese Tik Tok is a Trojan Horse on people’s phones because it is surveillance apparatus for Beijing.  At the very outset this politicization of technology has brought a new veer of concern especially on maintaining bilateral and multilateral economic relations between states. 

The net effect of this is the intermingling of economic and security issues which have raised disputes over either type of issues and is growing into prolonged and difficult task to manage. Concerned about its susceptibility in the face of these realities, China has begun to view the requirements for economic growth in terms of national security by promoting home grown companies at the expense of the foreign companies ( Byte and the Tik Tok app). 

Technological system is projected as the useful starting point to analyze the consequences that globalization has for differing technological aspects. This brings the realization that Tik Tok embody not what has gone right with China but what has gone wrong. Tik Tok an app devoted to viral dances is part of the China threat that is disturbing the economic nexus between states because of this amour at Chinese disposal that penetrates deep into American society and stealing its secrets, monitoring its citizens and abetting Beijing’s reprehensible aims.  The bone of contention looms when now the US  government is requesting that ByteDance completely withdraw Tik Tok’s  operation and hands over its control on Tik Tok to a US entity. Thus humanity is at crossroads as to whether to maintain basic global business rules and fairness or allow bullying to continue in the name of national security.

However  China views this move by hegemonic mind set of US  as a flagrant subversion of international business ethics and rules and thus it will use every weapon at its disposal for the sake of Tik Tok and other Chinese companies to avoid and blatantly prevent globalization from becoming Americanization.

It is my fervent hope that this uneasy cooperation and superpower standoff with catastrophic implications on economic diplomacy does not escalate into disastrous consequences that disrupt world peace and prosperity.

  • Tafadzwa Rutsvara is a Msc student in International Trade and Diplomacy at the University of Zimbabwe.
  • Email: tafadzwarutsvara25@gmail.com
  • Phone : 0784505093.

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