China Promises Retaliation After TikTok Ban Legislation Passes — As TikTok Prepares Its Legal Recourse

China TikTok retaliation
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China TikTok retaliation
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Photo Credit: Henry Chen

A new report suggests China could retaliate following President Joe Biden signing into law legislation that would force the sale of TikTok—or ban the app.

President Biden signed the legislation into law last week alongside a military aid package for Ukraine and Israel. The bill gives ByteDance around nine months to a year to divest from TikTok fully, or the app will be banned in the United States.

“If the United States clings obstinately to its course, China will take resolute and forceful steps to firmly defend its own security and development interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said. Jian did not elaborate on what those ‘forceful steps’ may be, but the issue may come to a head over the United States’ close ties to Taiwan.

Growing threats from Beijing has resulted in Taiwan strengthening its defenses, though China says it seeks ‘peaceful reunification’ with the island. China has stepped up military activities around Taiwan since then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August 2022. The United States is Taiwan’s primary international backer and supplier of arms.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s government—which rejects China’s sovereignty claims — has welcomed the new legislation saying it will maintain security in the region.

For now, TikTok remains available in the United States and the ByteDance legal challenge to this could stretch out into several years. It’s also worth noting that a total ban of the app will be nearly impossible to achieve and mostly relies on controlling access to the TikTok app rather than the TikTok website.

“The TikTok bill relies heavily on the control that Apple and Google maintain over their smartphone platforms because the bill’s primary mechanism is to direct Apple and Google to stop allowing the app on their respective app stores,” adds Dean Ball, a researcher with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “Such a mechanism might be much less effective in the world envisioned by many advocates of antitrust and aggressive regulation against the large tech firms.”

While Apple users may not be able to ‘sideload’ the TikTok app, Android users can certainly take that risk. It’s also worth noting that should a total ban be enacted in the United States, downloading a VPN and changing the origin country to Canada or Mexico would effectively bypass that ban.