Politics in the De-politicised: TikTok as a Source of China’s Soft Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2021

By Zuza Nazaruk

TikTok logo. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last year’s “TikTok war” revealed unprecedented hostility of the US government towards the Chinese tech newcomer. The seemingly innocuous software was developed by ByteDance, a Chinese unicorn companyTikTok is a sister app of Douyin, created for the Chinese market. Both apps allow users to share and watch short videos. In July 2020, then-President Donald Trump accused TikTok of a series of breaches, the most serious of which was sharing user data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Levine, 2020). Yet, some experts, including Adam Segal from the Council of Foreign Relations, considered the near-ban a smokescreen to hinder the growth of the most globally successful Chinese app to date (Campbell, 2020). In 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app globally, with 89 million new users just in the US (Geyser, 2021). To date, 23% of Americans use or have watched TikTok, with an average American user having spent 14.3 hours monthly on the app in 2020 (Tankovska, 2021).

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Chinese Communist Party Cooperation with Gangs and Politicians in Canada: Book Review

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 5, May 2021

By Anders Corr

The book cover of Wilful Blindness, by Sam Cooper.

Wilful Blindness How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP agents Infiltrated the West, by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, 2021, $28.95 CAD.

An investigative reporter in Canada, Sam Cooper, is at the tip of the spear, where China injects money, drugs, spies, and underage prostitutes into all of North America. Cooper provides us with a front-row seat of China’s espionage, drug supercartels, support to terrorism, money laundering, and, for a pledge of support to Beijing, campaign donations to the politicians who lurk around China’s United Front groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Add to that investigations of trafficking in weapons. Heads of state, including Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, are linked by the author to the nefarious characters from China who are doing this dirty business.

It sounds too crazy to be true.  

But Cooper’s new book, Wilful Blindness, is nonfiction, and based on five years of his investigative reporting on the topic, and confidential sources in Canadian intelligence and police agencies. It vindicates, and brings up to date, a joint Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that in 1997 made many of the same claims. That report, called “Sidewinder”, was suppressed by Ottawa, which at time was trying to ink new trade deals with Beijing.  Continue reading

As 300,000 Hong Kongers Move To Britain, It’s Time To Rethink Immigration Policy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2021

By Bertie Harrison-Broninski

Did British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment Policy’ help Russian President Vladimir Putin? Wikimedia Commons

2021 marks ten years since the start of the Syrian Civil War, and we’re reaching the end of a decade of European and British politics defined by the migrant crisis. Anti-refugee campaigning contributed to the Brexit vote in the UK, and to far-right governments across Europe, such as Viktor Orban’s in Hungary, or Andrezej Duda’s in Poland. 

Yet two seemingly contradictory developments in British policy this month demonstrate that the Brexit architects who are now leading the UK government lack Orban or Duda’s clarity around their attitude towards immigration. 

Immigration Minister Chris Philp announced last week that Britain would no longer be giving sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children. The ‘Dubs Amendment’ to The Immigration Act 2016 was intended to be the Syrian Civil War equivalent of the WW2 Kindertransport programme, and is now officially ended. While Kindertransport resettled 10,000 children however, this policy aimed for 3000 child refugees, and ultimately only managed 480 before its end. Philp said it is “important that we focus on ensuring that we can care for those who are already here before we agree to taking more children”.  Continue reading

The Chinese Communist Party Operates As A “Foreign Terrorist Organization” Per 8 U.S.C. § 1189 

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

By Dr. Terri Marsh, J.D. (Human Rights Law Foundation) and Dr. Teng Biao (University of Chicago)

Chinese Communist Party flag. Source: Wikimedia

The Chinese Communist Party (the Party) was founded in 1921 to defeat the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, through a “violent revolution” and establish a totalitarian communist state. Since its victory in 1949, it has directed a wide range of activities that include the waging of violent suppression campaigns, providing material support to known terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terrorism, abducting foreign diplomats, in addition to the use of forms of “soft” power to export repression through an “increasingly powerful and brutal totalitarianism that is metastasizing globally.” Operating without constitutional support,[1] left to its own devices, it will continue to rewrite international norms and create a new international order in which the rule of law, human dignity, democracy and justice are debased and denied.

The U.S. government has shown an increasing willingness to confront the Party on different policy fronts, including by calling it out for human rights abuses and encroachments of civil liberties around the world. It has publicly sanctioned four Party officials (though more may be subject to visa restrictions) in connection with persecution in Xinjiang, including senior Chinese Communist Party officials Chen Quanguo (Politburo member and Party Secretary of Xinjiang, who perfected his tools of repression in Tibet) and Zhu Hailun (Deputy Party Secretary of Xinjiang). It has also recently issued robust sanctions against the Party-controlled Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB)[2] also in connection to the severe human rights abuses leveled against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).[3]

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China: The Struggle for Territory Eclipses Trade

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 6, June 2020

By William R. Hawkins

A tank unit of the Chinese Army underway. The number of tanks in China’s armored forces ranks third in the world. The main battle tanks have the ability to fight under nuclear and night conditions. Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In February 1999, President Bill Clinton opened a major foreign policy speech by  claiming, “Perhaps for the first time in history, the world’s leading nations are not engaged in a struggle with each other for security or territory. The world clearly is coming together.” This was the height of the post-Cold War delusion that history had come to an end and that a new world order had dawned based on a global partnership for economic development. Yet, Clinton knew that this was still a work in progress. In the same San Francisco speech he talked about conflicts in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and the Balkans, the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the need to bring Russia and China “into the international system as open, prosperous, stable nations.” The emphasis, however, was always on economics, a peaceful way to rise within classical liberal theory, transcending political issues and separating wealth from power in an interdependent world.

The classical liberal view held that wealth could be best pursued outside the bounds of sovereign territory. Borders were not to impede the movement of people, capital or goods which were motivated by material gain and self-improvement. Their frame of reference was the efficient use of resources world-wide to maximize global output, not their relative use among national sub-units. Peace would be the result of economic interdependence as trade could gain access to resources at less cost than conquest, and that once entangled in global supply chains, the cost of disruption for political reasons would be unbearable. The classical worldview was very popular in the 19th century prior to World War I and revived briefly during the interwar years only to be once again vanquished by World War II. The rapid onset of the Cold War kept such idealism in check, but it burst forth again after the Berlin Wall came down, symbolically opening the world to new possibilities.

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