'Typical rogue behavior' reflects U.S.' insecurities and abuse of state power
China has said it firmly opposes the United States generalizing the concept of national security and that it is abusing state power to suppress non-American companies.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning made the statement on Tuesday after the White House in Washington, the day before, said all U.S. federal agencies will be required to remove the Chinese short-video platform TikTok from their phones and systems within 30 days.
On Monday Canada announced that the TikTok platform would be removed immediately from all federal government-issued mobile devices from Tuesday.
"How unsure of itself can the world's top superpower be to fear a young people's favorite app like that?" Mao said.
She urged the U.S. to respect the principles of market economy and fair competition, and to stop suppressing companies. The U.S. government should provide an open, fair and nondiscriminatory environment for companies in all countries to invest and operate in the U.S., she added.
The widely popular TikTok app is owned by ByteDance Ltd, which is headquartered in Beijing. The company has repeatedly denied allegations that it stores the private information of its users.
All U.S. federal agencies must remove TikTok from phones and systems, and prohibit internet traffic from reaching the company, Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a memorandum seen by Reuters.
On Tuesday the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to vote on a bill that would give President Joe Biden the authority to ban TikTok from all U.S. devices.
Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, said the U.S. and Canada use political measures to drive competitors of their own companies out of their markets, which is "typical rogue behavior" and against international rules.
"The U.S. uses 'security and privacy risks' as excuses to suppress Chinese companies, which is a strategy to counter China and prevent Chinese companies from carrying out their normal activities in the U.S., or compete fairly in the U.S., completely deviating from the basic principles of fair competition in the free market."
U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, opposes the bill. A Democratic spokesperson said on social media that Meeks would like to see what comes from a review of TikTok by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States before "taking the unprecedented step of banning an app used by more than 100 million Americans".
In January TikTok had more than 1 billion users globally, 113.3 million of them in the U.S., followed by Indonesia (110 million), Brazil (82.2 million) and Mexico (57.5 million), according to Statista, an online platform specializing in market and consumer data.
On Monday Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board in Canada, said: "Effective Feb 28, 2023, the TikTok application will be removed from government-issued mobile devices. Users of these devices will also be blocked from downloading the application in the future."
A spokeswoman for TikTok said Canada took the action "without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions" and that the company is "always available to meet with government officials to discuss how we protect the privacy and security of Canadians, but singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal", The Wall Street Journal reported.
"I don't think it is the right move," said Vass Bednar, executive director of the Master of Public Policy in Digital Society program at McMaster University, Canada, during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday. Ottawa's action is "jumping on a bit of a bandwagon" and "overly political", she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it opposed the U.S. ban on TikTok. "A ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans who use the app to express themselves daily," the ACLU said on Monday.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is due to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.