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TikTok: Huawei 2.0

Sino-British relations have plummeted.

Huawei has been stripped of any significant role in Britain’s 5G network, the Government suspended extradition with Hong Kong and China’s ambassador to the UK denied reports of abuse of the Uighur population in the Xinjiang region.

TikTok has become the latest issue that may deteriorate the relationship between Britain and China even further.

Those in charge of the video sharing app have strongly denied accusations that its data could be used by the Chinese Government following reports that Britain may enforce an outright ban.

TikTok’s head of public policy for Europe felt the need to distance the app from Xi Jinping’s regime due to constant unease over privacy and censorship issues.

TikTok collects a huge amount of data on its users, including what videos are watched and commented upon, location data and the keystroke rhythms people exhibit when they type. This collection of data is not unlike many other social media platforms such as Facebook.

However, like with Huawei, the arguments against TikTok seem to be based around the theoretical possibility of the Chinese government compelling TikTok under local laws to hand over data on foreign users.

The app, which has over 500 million users worldwide, has been propelled into the centre of geopolitical discussions as Donald Trump’s administration and leading Conservatives in Westminster call for it to be banned over security fears.

The British Government has realised that a hard line on China is now a bipartisan issue in America. While Biden may take a different approach to the Trump administration, he has indicated he would impose economic sanctions on the Asian country if elected President.

With Britain set to become increasingly reliant on its relationship with America post-Brexit, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will be eager to demonstrate they are willing to follow their counterparts over the Atlantic in pressuring the Chinese, even if it does little impact to Xi Jinping.

While it is unlikely a ban on TikTok would have the same fallout as decisions on Huawei or the Hong Kong immigration plans, it is the latest instance of Britain potentially towing the White House line.

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