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

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

TikTok logo. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Zuza Nazaruk
Freelance Journalist

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

The book cover of Wilful Blindness, by Sam Cooper.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

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. 

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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

Chinese Communist Party flag. Source: Wikimedia

Terri Marsh, J.D.
Human Rights Law Foundation

Teng Biao, Ph.D.
University of Chicago

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.

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China’s Rise and the Weaponization of Soft and Hard Power: How the U.S., Japan, India and Australia are Responding

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2020

Detail from mural of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in Berlin, Germany in 2020. Source: Yan Bennett.

John Garrick
Charles Darwin University

Yan Bennett
Princeton University

China has now fully weaponized its entire soft power repertoire and dramatically upgraded its military arsenal. The Middle Kingdom is no longer unwilling to openly challenge U.S. global hegemonic supremacy or coerce less powerful nations that do not accede to its will. The shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have unmasked the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ambition to be at the centre of global power, but at the same time, the CCP also faces uncertainty over China’s chances of achieving its 2017 strategic targets set by General Secretary Xi to ‘comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society’ by 2021.

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China: The Struggle for Territory Eclipses Trade

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

Military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Chinese people’s victory in the Japanese Resistance War and the end of World War II, 2015. 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. Source: Press Service of the President of Russia.

William R. Hawkins
Former U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee member

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.

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