Expert warns of ‘chilling reality’ TikTok threat poses: ‘China’s greatest asymmetric advantage’

China’s ‘infiltration’ of civil discourse in the United States poses an ‘immediate’ threat to Democracy and is one of the ‘greatest threats we face today’ in terms of national security, according to an expert on China. 

TikTok is not just a technological concern, it is not just a social media problem, TikTok is today China’s greatest asymmetric advantage against America,’ Michael Sobolik, author of the new book ‘Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance,’ told Fox News Digital. 

‘It represents the most immediate threat to American democracy that the Chinese Communist Party poses,’ he continued.

China’s role in ‘infiltrating our civil discourse’ through TikTok represents one of the ‘most important problem sets in US-China relations,’ Sobolik explained, because ‘you have about half of America on one app that the Chinese Communist Party controls, and they can manipulate public opinion and spread propaganda.’

‘It’s a huge problem.’

Sobolik, a Senior Fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told Fox News Digital that 170 million Americans are on the social media platform with 150 million of them on the site for at least an hour a day. A large chunk of those users, Sobolik said, rely on the platform for news, which the Chinese government is using to its advantage.

The Chinese Communist Party controls TikTok, because TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is domiciled inside of China,’ Sobolik said. ‘As such, they must comply with any requests that they receive from Beijing to turn over U.S. user data, to censor content, or to boost content. They have no recourse of saying no to the CCP. There have already been documented instances of TikTok surveilling U.S. journalists to try to figure out who they were talking to inside of the company. ByteDance has already pledged its cooperation to work with Beijing to hone its algorithm to advance the CCP’s interests.’

Members of Congress have been debating over the past several months whether to ban TikTok in the United States or force the sale of the company to an entity outside of China. Opponents of the bills on the Republican side have argued that banning the popular social media app ‘goes against the First Amendment.’

Sobolik flatly rejected that idea.

‘None of this is a mystery,’ Sobolik said. ‘This is documented. There are instances of TikTok’s censoring content about Tibet, the Uyghurs, Tiananmen Square and other sensitive issues to the Chinese Communist Party. The concerns with TikTok have nothing to do with free speech. The concerns for TikTok are that an adversarial nation controls one of the biggest pillars of information in the United States today. And if you think that’s only a theoretical concern, imagine if China goes to war with Taiwan. And then, as that is happening, floods TikTok with pro-CCP messages, with disinformation about what’s happening, and tries to push a public opinion campaign that America should stay out and not do anything to help Taiwan.’

‘China has one of the strongest abilities to manipulate U.S. public opinion in its grasp today. This should be a chilling reality. This should send a shiver down the spines of every American.’

Sobolik continued, ‘The content you see on TikTok may feel unique to you, but you are being fed content from an algorithm that is controlled by America’s chief adversary. This is a Trojan horse inside of the United States, and it is high past time for members of Congress to take this seriously. To put the country first and to kick this Trojan horse out of America’s walls. We cannot allow this app to continue to function under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.’

‘America has a gun pointed at its head every single day in the information realm. We have to take care of this issue and we must do it now. There are no constitutional concerns of any meaning here. This is a national security concern, and it is one of the greatest concerns that we face today.’

It remains unclear whether Congress has the necessary political appetite to ban or dissolve TikTok, and Sobolik told Fox News Digital that he believes that question is ‘going to be one of the biggest tests for America.

‘If we can fix this TikTok problem, that will be one of the most encouraging signs that we’ve seen in decades about our seriousness with protecting our liberty and our freedom and for opposing tyranny,’ Sobolik said. ‘If we let this problem go, if we don’t fix it, we may as well go home and get out of the great power competition altogether.

‘Because again, remember, protecting yourself is the bare minimum. Good defense might win NBA basketball championships, but good defense is the bare minimum. It’s good housekeeping. You don’t get a gold star for taking care of your own homeland. You get a gold star for going out in opposing authoritarian regimes. Cold wars are won by seizing the initiative and going on the offensive. If we cannot sever TikTok from CCP control, we have much bigger problems.’

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a TikTok spokesperson said ‘multiple media outlets have reported’ that ‘there is not a shred of evidence’ to the ‘outlandish claims’ that TikTok is a vessel of the Chinese government.

‘The reality is the ban bill would trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and devastate 7 million small businesses nationwide,’ the spokesperson said.

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