Freedom of Speech China Victims of Communism

TikTok: A Tale of Two Systems

It is the best of apps; it is the worst of apps.

I am a Chinese national who grew up under the indoctrination of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While I lack hard evidence, my first-hand life experience in China tells me that TikTok has at least three insidious missions from the CCP.

First, the CCP wants to use TikTok to influence global perceptions.

Researchers found organized online Chinese campaigns to disparage Hong Kong protesters on the platform. “TikTok account with 2 million followers openly denying the Uyghur Genocide,” according to a post on Reddit. The #TiananmenSquare hashtag — named for the sprawling Beijing center where military forces in 1989 killed thousands of people following pro-democracy protests, a massacre strictly censored across China — shows about 20 videos on TikTok, most of which joked that the bloody episode never happened.

“It’s a massively untapped platform that organizations can use to change the perceptions of a massive audience,” said Rohan Midha, the managing director of PMYB, a U.K.-based marketing firm that helps coordinate corporate sponsorship deals with TikTok’s growing corps of influencers. “And most of the users are quite young, so you can reach a young demographic who it might be easier to shape their perceptions outright.”

Secondly, TikTok can be used by the CCP as a tool — or a sort of spiritual opium, a term often used by the CCP — to confuse and corrupt Westerners, particularly enfeebling young people.

According to the Washington Post (2019), “TikTok has quickly become one of America’s most popular mobile apps, a flashy, frenetic, video playground beloved by teens and downloaded more than 110 million times across the U.S. With its blend of goofy memes, fast-twitch skits and chart-topping earworms like ‘Old Town Road,’ the app has quickly become China’s most successful social-media export abroad and a global phenomenon, installed by 1.3 billion users around the world.”

The company’s head of operations in India, Raj Mishra, has said the platform would not prominently feature criticism of the country’s leaders because the app is a place “where people come to have fun rather than creating any political strife.” This is exactly the new ruling theories or strategies adopted by the current Chinese Communist rulers. In a 2019 CBS interview, Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy leader in Hong Kong, pointed out, “the Communist Party believes that we, human beings, just have a body, but don’t have a soul.” “You guys just make money, have a good life. Don’t think about politics. Don’t think about freedom. Don’t think about human rights. Don’t think about the rule of law. Just eat. Enjoy life.”

Lai has attracted the ire of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for his political activism and his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including religious freedom. In 2020, he was arrested. In 2021, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison on top of the six months he had already served for his involvement in an unauthorized assembly on October 1, 2019, during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy rallies.

Following TikTok leaders’ logic and the CCP’s ruling theory, we can see that the mission of this social media platform is to feed those bodies in the Western world and let them live without souls.

Lastly, the Chinese regime uses TikTok to operate an ambitious and aggressive global agenda.

Emperor Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has called for China to “lead the reform of the global governance system,” transforming institutions and norms in ways that will reflect Beijing’s values and priorities. Researchers have grown worried that TikTok has become one of China’s most effective weapons in the global information war, bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences and shaping how they understand real-world events.

TikTok may not be technically owned by the Chinese Communist Party, but by nature, it is. The name of its Chinese parent company is ByteDance. In China, TikTok is banned, just like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or X, Google, and all the social media platforms or apps owned by the U.S. companies. Yet, the Chinese authorities aggressively operate TikTok in the United States to intoxicate American young generation and spread disinformation to damage democracy.

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