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News of US Sanctions Against Hong Kong Top Officials is “America Penalizes Chinese Officials” on Weibo

US imposing sanctions on Hong Kong officials is hashtag ” America Penalizes Chinese Officials” on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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As ensions between the United States and China have been increasing on a daily basis, the US government has announced sanctions against the Hong Kong government senior leadership for carrying out Chinese “policies of suppression,” right after signing executive orders to ban Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US.

The targets of the Hong Kong sanctions are eleven individuals, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, and come three weeks after the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law.

On Friday, August 7th, the US Department of the Treasury issued the names and personal details (home addresses, ID numbers) of the Hong Kong individuals added to the Office of Foreign Assents Control list of Specially Designated Nationals.

A Washington press release on Friday declared the situation in Hong Kong “a national emergency,” stating that the recent actions taken by the People’s Republic of China “fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic processes,” and that these developments provide for “the imposition of sanctions on actors engaged in these malign activities.”

The sanctions freeze any property or financial assets the eleven individuals have in the United States, though, as reported by the BBC, Lam has said she does not have assets in the country.

On Chinese social media, where Trump’s sanctions on WeChat and Tiktok are still trending at time of writing, news of the second US official move of the day received less attention.

Not only did the news come when it was already night time in Beijing, but some hashtag pages relating to the issue were also taken offline.

The hashtag “America penalizes Chinese officials” (#美国制裁多名中国官员#) is currently online with some 2.7 million views, while the hashtag page for the hashtag “United States Sanctions Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam” (#美国制裁香港特区行政长官林郑月娥#) was taken offline. This also means that all of these hashtags on Weibo are no longer linked to any page or overview.

The hashtag “America penalizes Chinese officials” (#美国制裁多名中国官员#) was initiated by Chinese media outlet Sina News, which is the current host of the hashtag page.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

Chinese Online Responses to the ‘TikTok Problem’

Manya Koetse

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Trump’s TikTok and WeChat bans have been all the talk over the past weeks. These are the main viewpoints on the issue as recently discussed on Chinese social media.

News of US President Trump signing executive orders on August 6th to prohibit transactions with TikTok and WeChat parent companies Bytedance and Tencent remains a hot topic of discussion on social media.

Both apps have been described as posing a threat to America’s national security, with President Trump claiming that the app’s use in the United States heightens the risk of potential espionage and blackmailing practices. The apps are also accused of censoring content that is deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese government, and of being channels for disinformation campaigns.

Over the past three years, Bytedance’s Tik Tok app has become super popular in the United States, where it has approximately 100 million active users. Tencent’s WeChat has 19 million daily active users in the United States.

Until Trump’s executive orders go into effect (the September 20th deadline has been moved to November 12th), much is still unclear about the possible consequences of such a ban – and what the (vague) orders actually mean.

Will Tik Tok be sold to an American company? Will TikTok and WeChat be banned from Apple and Google app stores? How will the ban affect those for whom Wechat is an important communication tool in their everyday personal and business life? Will iPhone users in China still be able to use China’s number one app?

While news developments are still unfolding, the “TikTok problem” remains to be a hot topic on Chinese social media, with hashtags such as “How Do You See the TikTok Storm?” (#如何看待tiktok风波#) and “What’s the Main Goal of Trump Banning TikTok?” (#特朗普封禁TikTok的核心目标是什么#) receiving thousands of views and comments.

These are the main takes on the issue in the Chinese online media spheres recently.

 

“It’s all about US (technological) hegemony”

 

During a press conference on August 12, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) expressed that America was showing “bad table manners” for pressing down on “non-American companies,” and that the Tik Tok app had “nothing to do with national security.”

The fragment went viral on Chinese social media and was reposted many times by media accounts and Chinese web users.

Under the hashtag “Zhao Lijian Responds to the Tik Tok Problem” (#赵立坚回应涉TikTok问题#, 87 million views on Weibo), many Weibo users noted how Zhao did not say that the US was pressing down on ‘Chinese’ companies, but that it is suppressing ‘non-American’ companies (“非美国企业”), suggesting that it is all about American power and hegemony.

A few days earlier, Chinese state media outlet Global Times also published an article stating that, according to legal experts, the US government will be able to order Apple and Google to remove all products owned by ByteDance from app stores around the world based on the recent executive orders.

Illustration by Liu Rui published in a Global Times article on US technological hegemony.

Similar to the statement issued by China’s MOFA, Global Times also writes that the Trump administration “has displayed its ugly face that prevents any non-US company to break the US technological hegemony.” The issue of Chinese apps threatening US “national security” is called “a shameless excuse” that is used to “destroy China’s most successful globalized internet company.”

The phrase ‘non-American companies’ was probably also used by Zhao to emphasize that Bytedance has stepped up efforts over the past year to separate its international Tik Tok business from its China-based operations.

The company took on Disney’s head of streaming efforts Kevin Mayer to become its CEO of TikTok, an app that is different from its Chinese version, Douyin (抖音).  TikTok claims that all US user data is stored in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore, and that their data is not subject to Chinese law.

Other media outlets, such as Sina Tech, also stress the fact that any claims of TikTok or WeChat posing a risk to US national security are completely unsubstantiated and are merely another excuse to target Chinese products.

“The success of TikTok undermines the absolute American influence on the internet,” one Weibo commenter (@财务琳姐) writes: “They’ve nothing left to do but to discredit China.” Others say: “They’re beating down on China’s entire internet business to contain China’s developments.”

The same sentiments were reiterated by Zhao Lijian in a press conference on August 18, where he said that the US is engaging in a deliberate attempt to “discredit and suppress” Chinese companies.

 

“Shooting themselves in the foot”

 

A recurring way of responding to executive orders on WeChat and Tik Tok in Chinese online media, is that a possible ban on these Chinese apps would only have negative consequences for the United States.

Directly after news came out on Trump’s executive orders, the question “Apple or WeChat” started trending on Chinese social media, with many assuming that a possible ban would mean that Apple phones will no longer allow WeChat on its phones.

For the majority of people, the question is not a difficult one. As a messaging, social media, payment app and more, WeChat has become virtually indispensable for Chinese web users – they would simply stop buying iPhones.

The hashtag “US Shutting Down WeChat Will Affect iPhone Sales” (#美国封杀微信将影响iphone出货量#) discusses the stance of analyst expert Guo Mingji (郭明錤), who recently said that the ban on WeChat will have major impact on iPhone sales and could possibly lead to a drop of 25-30% in its sales volume.

One Weibo user (@赵皓阳) commented: “For the Chinese market, not using an iPhone could have some impact, but not using WeChat would mean cutting yourself off from society.”

“Ban it, just ban it, Chinese people will just switch to the high-end Huawei phones, and it will beat down Apple – great,” another netizen (@黄多多成长记) wrote.

 

“Shifting public attention away from COVID19 crisis”

 

The COVID19 crisis in the US has been receiving a lot of attention in Chinese media recently, and the American struggle to contain the virus is often linked to Trump’s mission to crack down on Tik Tok, WeChat, and Huawei.

“Focus on your own COVID19 epidemic, instead of trying to divert the attention all the time,” one Weibo user (@凯MrsL) writes. Similar comments surface all over Chinese social media, suggesting that the ‘anti-China’ strategy is just a way to distract the attention from the continuing spread of the coronavirus in the US.

Others write that Trump has made “a terrible mess,” and that “beating China” is the only card he has left to play. “This all about the upcoming elections,” some suggest.

The People’s Daily wrote on August 18 that, since the US is confronted with the severest situation of COVID-19, it should make “greater efforts than any country in the world to cope with the pandemic,” adding: “Surprisingly, it seems that such normal logic doesn’t exist in the minds of certain U.S. politicians.”

 

“An eye for an eye”

 

Amid all different perspectives in which the recent Tik Tok/WeChat ban developments are discussed, there is also one other recurring sentiment that stands out.

Reflecting on the Chinese online environment, there are also multiple Weibo users who argue that China virtually blocked so many American companies from thriving in the Chinese digital market (unless they would be willing to transform their products to comply with China’s strict cyber regulations), that it is not surprising that the US would also strike back to make sure Chinese companies cannot thrive in the American digital environment.

China has already banned so many American products, from Google to Facebook, from Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, that “there is nothing left to ban” for China: “We have few countermeasures left to take.”

 

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China World

“What’s Next?” – Trump’s Executive Orders to Ban TikTok and WeChat from Operating in the US

The announced US sanctions on WeChat cause concern on Weibo, where the question “Apple or Wechat?” is trending.

Manya Koetse

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At a time of escalating tensions between the US and China, President Trump has signed executive orders to ban Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US in 45 days, if they are not sold by their parent companies Bytedance and Tencent.

The latest Wechat and TikTok sanctions are trending on Twitter, and also on Chinese social media.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Trump Declares that Bytedance and WeChat Will Be Banned from Operating after 45 Days” (#特朗普宣布45天后禁止与字节跳动及微信交易#) attracted a total of 250 million views on Weibo by Friday afternoon, Beijing time.

“WeChat” also became the number one search term on Weibo’s hot search lists.

The executive orders issued on August 6 address the “threat posed by WeChat” and the “threat posed by TikTok,” and “the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and service supply chain.” The orders prohibit American companies and individuals from conducting transactions with TikTok and WeChat.

The order on TikTok, which is practically the same as that on WeChat, states that “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

It states that “the United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security” and that..

..TikTok has been downloaded over 175 million times in the US.
– ..TikTok collects large amounts of data from its users, including location data and browsing history.
– ..TikTok use in the USA potentially gives the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.
– ..Tiktok use heightens the risk of potential espionage and blackmailing practices.
– ..TikTok engages in disinformation campaigns and censors content deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party.

The order prohibits any transaction by any person subject to the US jurisdiction with Bytedance. The WeChat order, similarly, also prohibits, from September 20 on, “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (a.k.a. Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or any subsidiary of that entity.”

Tencent stocks plummeted on Friday following the release of the executive orders.

On Weibo, there are mixed reactions to the executive orders, with many questioning what a ban on Tencent and Bytedance operations in the US would actually mean. The position of Apple in China frequently pops up in online discussions, with some claiming the order also means that Apple will ban WeChat from iOS, and suggesting that Apple should then also be boycotted in mainland China.

One online poll asked netizens: “What would you choose if iPhones were to ban WeChat, Apple or WeChat?” A great majority indicated they would choose Tencent’s WeChat over Apple products.

The question “Apple or WeChat” received so much attention that it soon also went trending.

“For me personally, WeChat is indispensable. There’s nothing that could replace it,” one commenter wrote.

More than a messaging app, WeChat is China’s superapp that functions as a messaging tool, a social media platform, a payment platform, an e-commerce app, a news source, and more. The app is also the main communication tool for many overseas Chinese to stay in touch with their families in the PRC.

“What are we gonna do now, write letters to each other?” one comment in a popular thread said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the recent developments, saying that America will ultimately “suffer the consequences of its own actions” (“最终将自食其果”).

There are also people on WeChat and Weibo commenting on the fact that China has already banned so many American products, from Google to Facebook and Twitter, that “there is nothing left to ban.”

“We have few countermeasures left to take,” multiple web users write about the recent developments, also noting that the US targeting TikTok and WeChat is not much different from China blocking American sites and apps.

“World War III takes place in cyberspace,” according to one Weibo commenter.

Some Weibo users are just concerned about their new iPhone: “I just wanna know how this will affect the use of WeChat on my iPhone,” one person writes. “I just bought a new Apple phone, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so appealing to me anymore.”

“I’ll just wait 45 days to see what happens next,” another Weibo user says.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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