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Chinese Social Media Reacts to Trump’s TikTok Ban

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It has been a rollercoaster of a week for TikTok. Since President Trump threatened to ban the short video app — which is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance — from operating in the US, Chinese social media has been awash with TikTok-related news and discussion over this past weekend.

Just hours after Trump made the announcement, the hashtag “Trump announces he will ban TikTok operations in the US” (#特朗普宣布将禁止tiktok在美国运营#) surged to one of the top trending topics on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Unsurprisingly, the overriding sentiment was shock, anger, and bitterness over the seemingly abrupt decision. On a post related to the news, the most upvoted comment reads, “The so-called ‘market economy’ literally means banning a thing when it becomes an eyesore.”

“TikTok: ‘I did not know I was that important,’” reads another comment.

Related:

ByteDance: How the TikTok Creator Took Over the Internet and Incited International Controversy

After Microsoft announced it had put sales talks with ByteDance on ice following Trump’s opposition, the hashtag “Microsoft pauses acquisition of TikTok US operations” (#微软暂停收购TikTok美国业务谈判#) also gained traction on Weibo, with an overall 560 million views.

A comment that received over 20,000 likes reads: “Translation: ‘I don’t want to pay a thing [for TikTok’s US business],'” referring to Trump.

Another user commented sarcastically, “America is niubi [牛逼],” using Chinese slang that loosely translates to “f*cking awesome.”

“If you make [something] big and strong, they will acquire your business. If you don’t agree with them, then they will ban you.”

Once Microsoft had resumed negotiations with ByteDance after Trump reportedly gave the company a 45-day window to negotiate a deal, a Weibo user commented: “Trump is helping Microsoft to cut down the sale price as expected.”



Yet ByteDance accusing Facebook most recently of plagiarism and slander” has not helped win the company any applause at home either. Some netizens believe that the company has taken a softer stance towards the Trump administration than tech giant Huawei, which didn’t back out of the US market immediately after facing a ban.

“[Bytedance] never intended to become a Chinese enterprise,reads a top comment on a post related to ByteDance’s accusations, which has since obtained over 30,000 likes. “China is only a piece of the larger cake. […] It will probably take legal action against its ‘baby daddy’ [the US], but is waiting to see how it reacts first.”

The commenter added, “I am sure Australia and Japan will soon enact sanctions against [ByteDance] as well.” (A day after Trump proposed a TikTok ban, Australia announced that it was starting an investigation into the app as well.)

The irony of the ban wasn’t lost on some users, either. “Does this also mean they are building a firewall?” wrote one.

TikTok, which also has a Chinese counterpart Douyin, has become immensely popular worldwide especially with younger users, many of whom are in countries such as in the US and India.

However, the platform’s journey in 2020 has gone from pillar to post. On June 28, TikTok was banned in India along with 58 other Chinese apps in light of border tensions between the two countries. Not long after, ByteDance also announced its withdrawal from the Hong Kong market as it was forced to reckon with the new national security law.

Related:

TikTok May Face Ban in the US, Withdraws from Hong Kong

Even after former Disney executive Kevin Mayer was appointed its CEO and COO in June, TikTok has been under increasing scrutiny for user privacy violations and national security concerns in the US due to ByteDance being a Chinese company.

Header image: Solen Feyissa via Unsplash

Siyuan Meng
    Born and raised in Shaoxing, Siyuan lived in New York and Los Angeles prior to Shanghai. If she is not at work, she is probably at an art museum, a gym, a Mom-and-Pop restaurant or a park. She likes reading books or playing the piano on rainy days. She thinks she takes great photos.