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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US Trade Leverage Against China: An Interview with the Coalition for a Prosperous America

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 10, October 2021

China Shipping – Maersk-Sealand 40′ Containers, Quebec, Canada, 2018. Source: Wikimedia.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

This interview with Michael Stumo, the CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, was conducted between October 5-6 via email.

Corr: Why and when did the Coalition for a Prosperous America begin?

Stumo: CPA started in 2008. Domestic manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and workers agreed that the biggest threat to their well being, and that of the economy, was the large, persistent US trade deficit.

Corr: How is Biden’s ally focus going for him on the issue of trade with China? Is Biden’s outreach to allies helping him on this issue?

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“Winning” the Geopolitical Competition with China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 2, February 2021

Source: Wikimedia

Randall H. Cook
Consultant

By all accounts, the U.S.-China strategic competition is alive and well.  The news that China displaced the United States in 2020 as the world’s preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was followed closely by publication of a new “Longer Telegram” proposing a U.S. whole of government strategy to contain PRC Premier Xi Jinping’s ambition to realign the geopolitical structure with China as the new fulcrum.  The Biden Administration has sharply changed tack from its predecessor on a range of policies.  But on China, there is remarkable continuity.  The Trump Administration reset the U.S. strategic paradigm and there will be no going back.  Complex interdependent engagement is out; realist bipolar competition is the name of the new (but really, a back to the future sort of) game.

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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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The Recurring Intellectual Plague of Globalization

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020

A rear view of a businessman as he tries to sort out the mess of geopolitical events. Source: Pexels.

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

In the public mind, the outsourcing of jobs to China, which built the conveyer belt that carried Covid-19 from Wuhan to the world, was the fault of soulless transnational corporations. Greedy business tycoons were willing to deal with anyone in the pursuit of profit, regardless of larger consequences (of which the current pandemic is not the most dire). What cannot be overlooked, however, is that these private actors were given moral cover by intellectuals who assured them that they were fulfilling a higher purpose by spreading liberal values and promoting peace in a new era of globalization. Continue reading