U.S. President Donald Trump has issued executive orders to ban any U.S. transactions with WeChat, the messaging app owned by Tencent Holdings, and ByteDance, owner of TikTok, within 45 days, describing the Chinese-owned companies as threats to national security.
“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China . . . continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” said Trump in the two executive orders signed on Thursday.
I definitely think the world should impose severe sanctions on China and western companies working with them for the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Uyghurs and other minority groups, as well as the forced labour used to make Apple computers and Nike shoes. There’s also something intuitively wrong with China blocking and censoring western applications, platforms, and media – something many western companies comply with all too eagerly – all the while expecting Chinese state-owned or state-controlled companies to have complete freedom to collect and possibly spy everywhere else.
That being said, the Trump regime is not exactly known for coherent, consistent, and well thought-out policies, and these executive orders probably have more to do with diverting attention away from the complete and utter failure of the regime’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the upcoming election than anything else. These orders will probably be watered down over the coming weeks, so their value in putting pressure on China will be minimal.
Two things always happen when you point out atrocities committed by China. First, people point to problems in the US in a massive case of whataboutism, as if the problems in the US excuse a genocide in China. On top of that, if you think the admittedly big problems in the US means the US is a genocidal totalitarian fascist dictatorship, your false equivalency is so false it can shatter glass for kilometres around.
Second, apologists will say something along the lines of “okay, so you have nothing made in China?” This is a silly point to make. As individual consumers, it is literally impossible to avoid products made in China or other murderous regimes – just think of where your oil comes from. No, it’s governments and large corporations that have the power to put pressure on China, and so far, they have failed hard. They’ve been letting a genocide happen under their very noses, and once again, they choose to look away, because they value money more than human lives.
It’s always a struggle to go into politics on a tech website and it almost certainly makes me impopular, but since virtually all our technology is almost entirely or partly made in China, it’s impossible to ignore it and look away. Awareness is the first step, and covering your ears and eyes won’t make the problems go away. By letting our governments and the corporations we buy from get away with choosing money over human lives – money that we ordinary people do not benefit from anyway, since most of it ends up in the pockets of the ultra-wealthy anyway – none of this will ever change.