- Terence Hui
A Fine Line: Balancing U.S.-China Technology Relations
Photo from Fox Business
By Terence Hui
When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, people went in search of different forms of entertainment. While some people played old board games with their families, even more kids, teens, and adults across the world found TikTok, the online video-sharing platform. Its popularity grew exponentially, quickly spurring debates over its security, specifically as a Chinese-based company.
Former President Donald Trump targeted TikTok and other Chinese-based companies such as Huawei, a telecommunications equipment company. He claimed these companies posed a threat to national security and issued executive orders to impede their use within the United States.
Since Trump was voted out of office and President Biden took over, the executive branch needs to make a decision to continuously regulate Chinese-based firms or to allow these companies to operate. President Biden should take the middle path of caution with these companies, but to allow them to function within the U.S.
There is a valid concern of Chinese-based firms operating within the United States: Several scandals involving some Chinese firms’ caused mistrust among the U.S. For example, the CFO Huawei, Meng Wangzhou, is currently being held under fraud charges in the U.S.
There is even larger concern over Huawei’s intelligence gathering. According to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “As a matter of Chinese law, the Chinese Government can rightfully demand access to data flowing through Huawei … systems.”
However, there have been many arguments about if China could realistically demand data. Critics such as Roland Cloutier, head of security of ByteDance (parent company of TikTok), claim that it would be “impossible” as the data would be stored in the U.S. instead of China.
While the U.S. should acknowledge the threat, it should not push to take the most extreme paths of regulation. For one, it sets a bad precedent. Directly targeting a Chinese company would open up the door for China to target American-based companies even more than they already have by banning the use of Google, Facebook, and Twitter in the country.
Despite this, the current Trade War with China has proven how costly economic warfare is with both nations. The U.S. should not adopt a policy that would encourage China to ban tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft. This would be detrimental to the profits of each company and what money is being brought into the U.S.
The EU has recently been breaking ranks with the American government and signing economic treaties with China. Even if the Biden administration were to reopen restrictions on Chinese firms, the European market would still be open to such businesses.
Given the recent track the EU has been taking, simply banning Huawei would not be efficient. To the Europeans, the risk of alleged data leaks is worth it as long as they receive their cheap 5G to complement the current European phone industry. With this in mind, there is a solution to the United State’s predicament.
Instead of regulating or banning Chinese firms, the U.S. government should invest in tech companies to compete with Chinese firms globally. Huawei is popular because it’s inexpensive. If the United States subsidized tech firms to compete with those prices on a global scale there would be no reason to rely on Huawei.
It would boost American’s quality of life and increase jobs in the U.S. However, as previously stated, there should be some forms of regulation on firms in general to protect data, Chinese-based or otherwise.
This problem goes further than TikTok. It affects the lives of everyday Americans and the U.S. should pass new legislation that would guarantee the privacy of its citizens while investing in new cybersecurity methods.