China doesn’t want TikTok to be sold and secure a future for itself in the United States. It would rather have the controversial app company shut down. According to a Reuters report, three people with direct knowledge of the matter have disclosed that China would rather have TikTok shut down its business in the US, than see it being sold off to an American company. Donald Trump has given an ultimatum that TikTok must be sold off to a favoured American company if it wants to survive in the US.
On the surface, it looks like China is making this a prestige issue, saying that it would make both TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance and China appear weak in face of Washington’s pressure. However, beneath the surface China’s plan to sabotage a Tik Tok sale is aimed at hiding incriminating evidence of Beijing’s dirty data secrets and avoiding the sale of the piles of data that TikTok has mined from markets across the world.
Till now, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was claiming that it had nothing to do with TikTok. But now it is becoming clearer that the CCP is the main authority dealing with TikTok’s future business plans. Again it might seem that Beijing wants to avoid a Tik Tok sale in the US over the fear of a domino effect leading to TikTok being forced to sells its regional operations in every other democratic country including India.
However, there are bigger things that the CCP has to achieve. The CCP understands that whoever buys TikTok will not be paying truckloads of money to ByteDance for its short video app. What the buyer company would want to buy is the piles of data that TikTok has harvested from markets across the world.
The CCP knows that companies buying TikTok in the US or any other part of the world will access its dirty secrets, including the deep invasion into user privacy, security threats and a deep nexus with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). These secrets, once out in the open, would constitute incriminating evidence against both TikTok and the CCP. This evidence cannot be buried, because the data chain cannot simply be deleted and therefore the CCP is ready to sacrifice the video-sharing app.
And then the CCP also wants to hold on to the tons of data that TikTok has mined from markets across the world. This data is the real treasure of Tik Tok which the US accuses it of feeding “directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus”.
This piles of data that can include anything from facial recognition patterns to phones numbers, and other personal information such as residence of a person or the users’ friend circle is what the CCP wants to retain itself. The CCP knows that if the app is sold over to some American company, it would be handing over all this data treasure to the buyer company.
The CCP, in fact, doesn’t even care for the app itself. For all that Beijing cares, TikTok can shut its shop. Even if TikTok gets obliterated from the face of the earth, it would take no time for the CCP to sponsor some other app that can start doing for Beijing, what Tik Tok was doing till now.
But TikTok getting acquired on foreign soil would mean all hell breaking loose for the Communist government in China. Not only would some other company get the data treasure that TikTok has carefully mined, but also access the information systems through which data can be mined. The CCP knows what a TikTok sale means and therefore it is using the video-sharing app as a sacrificial lamb. The message from Beijing is clear- TikTok can burn itself, but in no position will it be allowed to handover the data treasure and China’s dirty tech secrets to the rest of the world.