TikTok, WeChat ban: U-M experts can discuss
Written by Debing Su
The Trump administration is adding more restrictions on TikTok and WeChat. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss its implications.
Mary Gallgaher is the Amy and Alan Lowenstein Professor of Democracy, Democratization, and Human Rights and director of the International Institute.
“It’s well known that the Chinese government blocks many U.S. social media corporations from freely operating in China, including Twitter, Facebook and Google,” she said. “And many Chinese citizens do not support their government’s restrictions on their access to information.
“Rather than banning WeChat and Tiktok, which many Chinese are rightly proud of for their innovative technology, the U.S. government should highlight the lack of reciprocity in market access for U.S. firms and the Chinese government’s inexcusable restrictions on free speech and expression for U.S. firms and Chinese citizens alike. We should protect our comparative advantage in openness and not fritter it away in a race to see which country can become more closed to the other.”
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Nicholas Howson is the Pao Li Tsiang Professor of Law. His areas of expertise include public law, regulatory policy and Chinese corporate law.
“Parties seeking to enjoin the implementation of President Trump’s executive order concerning WeChat—whether users or the platform itself—have extremely robust legal arguments on their side, arguments that should be familiar from similar challenges to the president’s ‘travel bans’ or new questions regarding citizenship on the U.S. census,” he said.
“Those arguments are grounded in U.S. constitutional law, including equal protection and First Amendment or free speech concerns—the power of the U.S. government to act in this way without a legislative mandate and pursuant to remarkably thin ‘national security’ justifications, notwithstanding. Because this is directed at a platform associated with the People’s Republic of China, there remains a question in my mind as to whether our federal courts are able to navigate an environment soaked in the ‘China Threat’ hostility fanned by the administration in recent years, and properly enjoin the implementation of the executive order in its present form.”
Erik Gordon is a clinical assistant business professor. His areas of interest include entrepreneurship, venture capital, private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and the biomedical, IT and digital marketing industries.
He thinks that America’s perception of China’s actions has eliminated the ability of China or the companies to avoid the ban by making promises.
“The powerful lever of credibility has been broken,” Gordon said. “It is unlikely that the U.S. will accept mere promises from a company controlled directly or indirectly by Chinese entities. The nominal location of the company’s headquarters doesn’t matter if the company is controlled by Chinese entities.
“If a U.S. company has sole access to and control over data that never leaves the U.S., it might be possible for the U.S. to accept an arrangement in which Chinese entities derive revenue from operations in the U.S. It seems less valid for the U.S. to impose a ban if there is sufficient data protection and the sole purpose of the ban is to force the company to sell its U.S. operations to a U.S. company.
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