What’s really behind the campaign to ban TikTok?

The following article by Chris Garaffa, originally published in Liberation News, provides valuable insight into the US government’s campaign to ban TikTok.

Chris notes that, while some in the US are concerned about TikTok’s data collection, such concerns “play into racist tropes about surveillance in China”. In reality, US social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “collect as much or more information than TikTok and use it to create profiles on users in order to target advertisements”. Furthermore, “these companies willingly hand over information to US law enforcement and surveillance agencies.” Data privacy is an important consideration in general, but it can only be addressed by regulation of the entire industry, not by singling out Chinese companies.

The attempt to ban TikTok must be considered in the context of “the ongoing effort by the US government to stop China’s ascendance on the global stage as part of its new Cold War efforts”, writes Garaffa. This broader campaign also incorporates the US government’s efforts to block Chinese technology companies such as Huawei from participating in the development of 5G networks, and the ongoing (and hapless) ‘semiconductor war’.

The author makes an important connection between the campaign against TikTok and the US-based genocide taking place in Gaza:

The renewed focus on TikTok also comes at a time when millions of people have continuously mobilized in defense of the Palestinian people since Oct 7. The genocide in Palestine is being livestreamed for the world to see on TikTok, and young people increasingly get their news from short-form videos on the platform…

Banning TikTok, or forcing it to be sold to a company based in the United States to continue operating, would have a chilling effect on the ability for people to see what Israel is doing to Palestinians with U.S. political, diplomatic, military and financial support. Such a ban would only be beneficial for U.S. tech giants and their investors, and would serve as a stepping stone in the growing confrontation that the United States is building towards with China.

On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 7521. This bill, called the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” but more commonly known as the TikTok ban, was passed just eight days after its introduction in the House. If the bill passes the Senate, President Joe Biden has said he will sign it.

The bill explicitly targets ByteDance, the owner of popular social media app TikTok, both in its introduction and in its text. If passed, the legislation would force the sale of the app so long as it’s owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company. It would also allow for the blocking of applications and websites with more than 1 million monthly active users if the company that makes the app is based in one of four “foreign adversary countries” defined by U.S. law: North Korea, China, Russia and Iran. App stores run by companies like Apple and Google would be prevented from allowing users to download TikTok and other covered apps to users in the United States.

Not a win for data privacy

Some privacy advocates claim this bill is a win for privacy rights, citing concerns about data collection by TIkTok. While some of these concerns may come from a well-intentioned place, they play into racist tropes about surveillance in China. U.S.-based social media apps collect as much or more information than TikTok and use it to create profiles on users in order to target advertisements. These companies also willingly hand over information to U.S. law enforcement and surveillance agencies.

Apple’s App Store added privacy labels to apps in 2020. Facebook’s app lists a massive 17 categories of information under the “Data Used to Track You” and “Data Linked to You” sections, including ominous and vague Sensitive Info and Other Data items.

Data Used to Track You includes information that may be shared directly with other companies including data brokers, while Data Linked to You includes information that is tied to your identity on the app. By comparison, TikTok lists 13 categories of data under these sections, and doesn’t include Sensitive Info, Health & Fitness or Other Data. X, formerly Twitter, similarly has 17 items under the two sections, with many more items listed directly as “Data Used to Track You” than either Facebook or TikTok. 

Data privacy is not the real concern of those pushing for a TikTok ban. If it were, they would be focusing on the multi-trillion dollar data collection industry that seeks to monetize every video view, every tap, every reaction GIF, and every message we send as users of these apps. If the U.S. government had real data protection regulations, all apps — including TikTok — would be required to follow them in order to do business in the country.

TikTok is already banned on the work devices of federal employees and of state employees in a majority of states. Donald Trump similarly tried to force the sale of TikTok to U.S. companies in 2020, giving retailer Walmart and enterprise software company Oracle a combined 20% stake in the company. Austin, Texas-based Oracle got its start in 1977 with the Central Intelligence Agency as its first customer, and heavily relies on government contracts for its business. Oracle co-founder and multi-billionaire Larry Ellison called for “a national security database combined with biometrics, thumb prints, hand prints, iris scans or whatever is best…” that could be “built in a few months” in a New York Times opinion piece months after the 9/11 attacks.

Continue reading What’s really behind the campaign to ban TikTok?

NYT McCarthyite “exposé” carries water for the MAGA right

In an August 11 statement, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) joined the chorus of solidarity with Roy Singham, a progressive American businessman, and the network of organisations that stand for peace and positive relations with China that he reportedly funds, following the launch of a scurrilous witch-hunting attack, thinly disguised as “investigative journalism”, in the pages of the New York Times on August 5.

Condemning the article as one that, “would have made Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover green with envy”, the CPUSA states:

“Once again, we see the revival of the notion that challenging US foreign policy is tantamount to acting as an ‘agent of a foreign power,’ a charge drawn straight from the playbook of the old House Un-American Activities Committee.”

It notes that, at the height of the McCarthy period, even a world-renowned scholar like Dr. WEB DuBois, then aged 83, was “handcuffed by the government on such patently false premises.”

According to the CPUSA, the New York Times’ work is not investigative journalism, but rather, “the putrid leftovers of a conspiracy theory that was already rotten the first time around, served up to delegitimise China’s emergence as a global power and discredit critics of US foreign policy.

“If the individuals and organisations targeted in the article were part of the welter of privately-funded NGOs, think tanks, conferences, and media networks used by the US ruling class to promote its foreign policy priorities, there would be no story here.”

We reprint the full text of the CPUSA statement below. It was originally published on the party’s website.

It’s official: The new Cold War is on—and the New York Times “proves” it by warning of a nefarious Chinese plot to influence U.S. public opinion.

In an article that would have made Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover green with envy, the Times puts a bullseye on the activity of groups like Code Pink, the People’s Forum, and the Tricontinental Institute and the financial support they supposedly rely on from Neville Roy Singham, a wealthy American with a history of donating to left organizations.

The most damning piece of evidence in the prosecution’s arsenal is saved for the hit job’s ending sentence: “Just last month, Mr. Singham attended a Chinese Communist Party propaganda forum. In a photo, taken during a breakout session on how to promote the party abroad, Mr. Singham is seen jotting in a notebook adorned with a red hammer and sickle.” A notebook emblazoned with a red hammer and sickle? Oh no!

The article is replete with such “proof.” According to the Times, Singham also has offices in a building in Shanghai and has been seen in the company of Chinese officials at events where China’s role in the world is presented in a way that does not align with U.S. foreign policy discourse.

Continue reading NYT McCarthyite “exposé” carries water for the MAGA right

NYT publishes hit job on anti-war activists; solidarity must be the answer

In the following article, published by Workers World, John Catalinotto exposes the agenda behind the now notorious August 5 article carried by the New York Times purportedly exposing a number of organisations in the United States and elsewhere that stand for peace, against the new cold war, and for constructive relations with China, as agents of the Chinese state and communist party.

Many of these organisations have apparently been funded by Roy Singham, former owner of a software consultancy, who has evidently been following a well-trodden path of wealthy Americans, namely devoting a portion of his fortune to bodies and institutions that share his personal convictions and interests. The only thing that is exceptional, and to the ruling class unacceptable, is that Roy’s personal convictions and interests happen to be those of peace, anti-imperialism and socialism.

Following the publication of the Times story, Marco Rubio, the arch-reactionary Florida senator and a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has written to US Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding that the Department of Justice investigate whether Roy and nine named organisations are complying with the terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an anti-democratic law that has historically been used to target a range of progressive people, including leading figures struggling for African-American liberation and Irish freedom.

In his Workers World article, John explains how, over decades, the New York Times, a house journal of the US ruling class that grandiloquently claims to be the repository of “all the news that’s fit to print”, has, liberal pretentions notwithstanding, touted for every US act of aggression, from Vietnam through Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and others, to Ukraine and China today. 

John makes the important point that the attack triggered by the New York Times article is but the latest salvo in a neo-McCarthyite wave that has already targeted others, from the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), its Chairman Omali Yeshitela, and the organisations that work in the white community under its leadership, the African People’s Solidarity Committee and the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, to numerous Chinese Americans, from prominent academics and scientists to a Boston hotel worker and union activist. As John notes:

“It’s important to include all these attacks, because the movement must respond in a united way. An attack on one is an attack on all.”

Once in a while, the New York Times runs an article that reveals what this media conglomerate really represents.

People often call the Times “liberal.” That’s because it seems to oppose some of the most reactionary politicians, like president #45, and gives ample opinion space to diverse voices.

When Washington mobilizes for war, however, the Times doffs its liberal cloak and exposes itself as a loudspeaker for U.S. imperialist interests. That’s what it did Aug. 5, running a front page hit job on progressive organizations and on a donor to these causes. The verbal attack replayed 1950s McCarthyism.

Though the article had clear political goals and lacked hard evidence, the Times disguised it as investigative journalism. Four Times’ reporters produced propaganda aimed at repressing voices that oppose Washington’s preparation for war, in this case war with China. It’s important in the context of the Aug. 5 article to be conscious of the fact that the Times pays these journalists to write —  and to follow editorial “guidelines.”

Continue reading NYT publishes hit job on anti-war activists; solidarity must be the answer

Blinken’s visit and Biden’s true colors: imperialist arrogance toward China

In this informative discussion on Breakthrough News, Brian Becker and Ken Hammond address the latest developments in US-China relations, in particular Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing and Joe Biden’s labelling of Xi Jinping as a “dictator”.

The two note that there was some short-lived optimism following Blinken’s visit that there could genuinely be scope for improving US-China relations, which are currently at their lowest ebb in half a century. Blinken had a lengthy discussion with Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang, as well as meeting separately with President Xi and Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat. The Chinese Foreign Ministry reported that Wang Yi reiterated China’s baseline – and entirely reasonable – demands: “that the US stop playing up the so-called ‘China threat’, lift illegal unilateral sanctions against China, stop suppressing China’s scientific and technological advances, and not wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs.” Blinken meanwhile asserted that the US is committed to “managing differences responsibly and cooperating in areas of common interests.”

However, Biden’s foolish comments about the so-called spy balloon incident, in which he referred to Xi Jinping as a “dictator”, almost immediately wiped out any goodwill resulting from the Blinken visit. Ken observes that Biden’s comment betrays the US administration’s profound hostility towards China, and its fear of China’s rise. This fear, combined with the continued need of US capitalism to engage economically with China, leads to erratic and confused statements and policies.

Brian points to certain parallels between the McCarthyism of the Cold War era and the New McCarthyism of the New Cold War, including a nasty, racist and deeply antidemocratic witch-hunt. He points out, however, that China’s integration into the global economy means that attacks on China also cause significant harm to the West. Furthermore, import restrictions on Chinese products such as solar panels lead to inflated prices for US consumers and are impeding meaningful climate action. As such, the New Cold War is damaging for ordinary people in the West.

Ken and Brian describe the US as being addicted to war, and observe that the propaganda war against China is part of a broader war drive. They call for a determined struggle against this propaganda war.

Professor Hammond’s new book, China’s Revolution and the Quest for a Socialist Future, is available on 1804 Books.

Chinatowns squeezed between capitalist development, New Cold War

This article by Tina Ngo, Ningshun Chen and Wai Lee Chin Feman, first published in Liberation News shines a light on the pressures faced by Chinatowns in the US. The authors point to a longstanding trajectory of gentrification that is making Chinatowns increasingly unviable, with rising rents and major construction projects that prioritize capitalist profit over the needs of communities. “For the few Chinatowns in which working-class immigrants and families still reside, rabid gentrifying forces are pushing the local residents to fight for their lives.”

Additionally, the article discusses how the New Cold War between the US and China is affecting Chinatown communities, fomenting anti-Asian racism and McCarthyite witch-hunting. The authors draw a parallel with the Red Scare of the 1950s, when state agents “rampaged through Chinatowns in search of Chinese communists and sympathizers”, and the FBI “raided universities and student clubs in search of Asian-American radicals.” The New Cold War and the propaganda that surrounds it are creating the conditions for a new wave of repression and intimidation.

The article concludes with a call for a joined-up struggle against US militarism, racism, McCarthyism and gentrification.

For decades, Chinatowns across the United States have been under attack by racist capitalist developments. Developers, banks and politicians are competing to construct the newest arenas, the tallest mega-jails and the grayest luxury apartment condos. These seemingly upscale yet unsafe and unsound projects have effectively priced out long-time residents and small businesses. Capitalist developments have destroyed entire communities — places where people used to live, gather, and thrive — now sit as empty vessels and lifeless tourist destinations. For the few Chinatowns in which working-class immigrants and families still reside, rabid gentrifying forces are pushing the local residents to fight for their lives.

Profiteering developments are just one instance of the extensive social phenomena threatening our Chinatowns. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a right-wing propaganda campaign, ignited anti-Asian sentiments and hate crimes. Countless acts of violence, most of which targeted women and the elderly, took place within and around Chinatowns across the country. Victims of these hate crimes were shoved off subway platforms and sidewalks, beaten with objects, and dehumanized with racial slurs. 

Mainstream media portray these assaults as supposedly senseless incidents and reduce them to individualized racial “hate.” They exalt that the solution to these problems is to increase crime reporting, expand police budgets, and to strengthen the system of mass incarceration. The news media is cynically manipulating the plight of Asian Americans to promote reactionary “tough on crime” policies. 

Capitalists are opportunistically banking on the latest rise of anti-Asian violence to drive a wedge between oppressed communities, as a means to keep them divided and powerless. This strategy of racial division is part of the larger profit scheme to encroach on Chinatowns by dividing communities fighting for the same right to housing. 

Continue reading Chinatowns squeezed between capitalist development, New Cold War

The China Initiative and the New McCarthyism

In this detailed video interview, Professor Ken Hammond talks with Danny Haiphong about the China Initiative and associated programs attacking Chinese academics in the US. Ken observes that, while the program is ostensibly based on protecting US intellectual property and strengthening its IT security systems, the vast majority of cases have been about individual researchers’ supposed association with the Chinese state, and in particular the People’s Liberation Army. These connections are tenuous at best. Most Chinese universities have some relationship with the People’s Liberation Army, in the same way that most US universities have some relationship with the Department of Defense. If something like the China Initiative were applied around the world, practically no US scholar would be able to engage in joint research with any institution abroad. Meanwhile, in spite of the Biden administration claiming to have shut the program down, several thousands cases are ongoing. The reality of the China Initiative and associated programs is that they are are part of a broader campaign to demonize China and contribute to public support for a New Cold War.

British intelligence services make up a James Bond film script

Republished below is an incisive article from Global Times exposing the reactionary, racist and damaging nature of the MI5’s allegations against Christine Ching Kui Lee. Ms Lee, a British citizen, is being targeted for the sole reason that she works to develop cooperative and mutually beneficial relations between Britain and China. A few years ago, during the ‘golden era’ of Britain-China relations, Ms Lee was widely praised for her work; now, however, with Britain closely following the escalating US-led New Cold War, she has suddenly become the quintessence of the ‘China threat’.

MI5 recently issued a warning to MPs, claiming Christine Lee, a woman of Chinese origin, has been working as a spy on behalf of the Communist Party of China with the aim to infiltrate Parliament to interfere in UK politics. Some MPs immediately followed suit to hype the “China threat.” MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said “the challenge from Beijing is increasing.” Meanwhile, Conservative MP and former party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, called for Ms Lee to be deported and demanded the government make a statement to the House.

MI6 is famous around the world because of the James Bond films. MI5 is a brother department of MI6. Ken McCallum, the current director general of MI5, was given the nickname “007” by his teammates before he took office in April 2020. In his annual threat update for 2021, he warned that the activities of China, Russia and other “hostile states” could have as large an impact on the public as terrorism. This is just the epitome of how deeply he is poisoned by McCarthyism. 

Continue reading British intelligence services make up a James Bond film script

Why we shouldn’t fall for the ‘Chinese influence’ scare at Westminster

We publish below two editorials from the Morning Star (Why we shouldn’t fall for the ‘Chinese influence’ scare at Westminster and China dismisses claims of an agent targeting British MPs) dealing with the absurd recent story about China allegedly buying ‘political influence’ in the British Parliament. The second editorial includes a quote from Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez noting that this escalating reds-under-the-bed narrative is performing the function of repressing individuals and organisations that oppose the West’s reckless New Cold War.

The latest scare over Chinese “influence” at Westminster should be taken with several barrels of salt.

Pointing to the convenience of a national security story being broken at a time when both Downing Street (over “partygate”) and Buckingham Palace (because of Prince Andrew’s increasing vulnerability over sex abuse allegations) could do with distracting the public will invite charges of conspiracy theories.

But the left would be naive to ignore the political role of the intelligence services.

The convention of seeing state institutions which are not party-political as not political at all works to promote the idea that the likes of MI5 are neutral professionals.

Continue reading Why we shouldn’t fall for the ‘Chinese influence’ scare at Westminster