Who scares the world with Chinese interference?



In late July, WeChat announced that the number of its users in Australia had dropped by almost 30% over the past three years. This happened amid constant questions about foreign interference in the application.

It is worth remembering that Australia has long been engaged in an ongoing campaign against Chinese services. Previously, it has already led to the banning of TikTok on government devices in the country, and concerns have also been raised about WeChat.

It is not hard to guess that the main author of this campaign is Australia. The key argument against Chinese services was the requirement to provide data upon request in accordance with China’s national security laws.

Messenger representatives parry that China’s laws would not apply to WeChat because the company, a subsidiary of parent Tencent, is registered in Singapore and its 150 employees are based there.

It is also noted that the Chinese government could not conduct surveillance on the app, and the company itself has not received any data requests under China’s national security law.

The censorship of content criticizing the Chinese government and related to the protests in Hong Kong (pessimization of such content is often attributed to TikTok), as well as other, no less high-profile events, is also denied.

However, James Paterson, chairman of a parliamentary committee examining foreign interference in social media, said the committee’s report would propose reforms to address the problems. He called the company’s responses dismissive and evasive, which Paterson said was further evidence of disrespect for Australia’s parliament.

The argument to critics is added by the fact that WeChat representatives were repeatedly invited to testify before the investigation began, but they refused, claiming that the company has no representative office in Australia.

Unlike WeChat, which is losing its Australian audience, TikTok, which has already experienced the wrath of the American government, is doing well in the United States. WSJ reports that the social network plans to launch its e-commerce platform in the States in August.

It is expected to store and ship a variety of goods from sellers in China, including clothing, kitchen gadgets and electronics, as well as handle marketing, transactions, logistics and after-sales services.

It is reported that the platform’s know-how, in addition to the strongest audience base, will include payment methodology. According to WSJ, TikTok will pay Chinese vendors only after they find buyers in the U.S., and will return unpopular items to avoid overstocking. The company plans to open its program to sellers outside of China, and is working on an international payment and logistics system.

Allegedly, the launch of the platform has already been delayed as Chinese retailers are concerned about the app’s future in the United States. The state of Montana recently passed a law that would ban the app starting next year, and U.S. federal lawmakers continue to push for a blanket ban.

Given that if the platform is successfully launched, TikTok will become a direct competitor of the American Amazon, with which the White House recently teamed up to label gadgets sold in the United States for compliance with American cybersecurity standards, and, unlike other tech giants, showing record profits, it seems that no one will give up the online market without a fight.

You will agree that it is a very strange situation when you have been fighting an online marketplace for several years, and it is only growing and developing. It is unlikely that the American government will allow this to happen, which means that entering the online trading market may be very difficult for a Chinese company, and the snowball of claims from lawmakers will also grow.

Pressure is mounting on all sorts of Chinese businesses, not just information technology companies, and not just in the States. Western policymakers have made no secret of what this is all about. Namely, the rise of China as a technological superpower.

Specifically, in April of this year, Lindy Cameron, head of the UK Cyber Security Center, stated that “We cannot secure the technologies of the future without addressing the epochal challenge before us: the dramatic rise of China as a technological superpower.”

Cameron emphasized: “China has identified several existing and emerging technologies as vital to its future national security. And it is committed to becoming a world leader in setting technological standards.”

Earlier, the head of the Cyber Security Center argued that Russia poses the most serious and immediate threat to the United Kingdom in cyberspace.

It is obvious that the U.S. and its partners have made up their minds about external threats, so the attacks, backed up by a harsh regulatory policy, will continue. Against this background, the report of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is very interesting.

According to it, China has become the new digital leader. This is followed by a 15-point plan to help regain leadership. The points are mainly related to general technology promotion and trade policy, but it seems that the relevant structures are preparing non-public points and plans as well.

Obviously, the fulcrum for the confrontation must also be U.S. technology companies, which are now mired in scandals and economic problems.

And the case of the same TikTok, which is extremely popular despite everything, shows that Americans have made their choice. It will be interesting to see how the state will prove them wrong. A standard set of legislative and marketing tools is unlikely to help.

And U.S. politicians are not to be envied. After years of watching U.S. companies move production to China because it is cheaper, they missed the fact that the country has become not just a big assembly hub, but a sovereign technological power that is no longer (or even if it ever was) embarrassed by shouts from the White House.