Deep Dive: Translating Chinese Data Assurances

Recent news reports indicate that Washington is shelving a proposed deal to let Oracle and Walmart purchase the U.S. operations of Chinese social media giant TikTok, while President Joe Biden decides how to deal with China more broadly on technology competition and cybersecurity.

This is a positive development, indicating that the new administration understands this decision is about more than dance videos or even misguided economic protectionism.

TikTok had been banned from operating in the United States because of American data security concerns. The Trump administration worried that the data gleaned from U.S. users would be made available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), allowing them to track or otherwise threaten U.S. citizens and interests.

Most importantly, because the CCP exercises decisive influence over Chinese businesses and often employs them as an extension of the state’s law enforcement and intelligence apparatus, underlying concerns about TikTok’s relationship with the CCP apply to virtually every other Chinese company—of which there are more than 280 on the U.S. Stock Exchange. The implications of this decision, therefore, will be wide-ranging if the United States intends to be consistent. For a viable, coherent policy, decision-makers need to understand how the CCP—and those under its control—manipulate language to hide their intentions, capabilities, and actions.

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