Our picks: China syndromeChina’s Imperial Ambition | TikTok’s “Spyware” Risk? | Hard-Line Chinese Intellectuals, and more

Published 11 August 2020

·  U.S.-China Relations Are Entering a Dangerous Period

·  “Clean Up This Mess”: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line

·  China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom

·  Iran’s Pact with China Is Bad News for the West

·  TikTok Is Inane. China’s Imperial Ambition Is Not.

·  Is This Trump’s Real TikTok ‘Spyware’ Risk?

·  Chinese Tech Companies Could Face Trouble in Europe

·  Why Is the United States Effectively Banning WeChat and TikTok?

U.S.-China Relations Are Entering a Dangerous Period (Economist)
In a book of essays called The Next Great War?: The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict, which examines Sino-American relations through the lens of the first world war, Richard Rosecrance warns of “the tyranny of small things”, the points of friction and misunderstanding between rival powers that, without leadership to manage them, can lead to conflict. China and America today are not about to take up arms, but small things are rapidly accumulating. The two distrust each other more now than at any point since Richard Nixon went to China almost 50 years ago. As a presidential election draws near, the potential for dangerous miscalculation is growing.
In a series of four speeches that evoked the cold war, fur of the China hawks who surround President Donald Trump laid out the case for abandoning “blind engagement” with China for a more confrontational relationship. A new, realistic strategy for standing up to China would be welcome — but their speeches add up to an attitude, not a strategy. They articulate a compelling argument for imposing pain on China, but no framework for judging how and when to do so. They talk about working with allies in loose, aspirational terms.
Another president might formulate a grand vision for how to engage China under such conditions. These hawks have Mr. Trump. His disregard for democratic allies and the cause of human rights, and his personal affinity for Mr. Xi, make him singularly ill-suited to lead a contest with China over global values. He has gripes with China, over trade and COVID-19, but these are not rooted in principle. His eyes are on what can get him re-elected.
That sets up a combustible dynamic in the months ahead. As the election approaches, Mr. Trump could be persuaded to take more dramatic action—say, financial sanctions on Chinese banks in Hong Kong, or a military display of support for Taiwan. A mishap or misunderstanding could prove perilous. It is right to want to chart a more robust course in Sino-American relations—but it would also be wise to beware the tyranny of small things.

“Clean Up This Mess”: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line (Chris Buckley, New York Times)
Chinese academics have been honing the Communist Party’s authoritarian response in Hong Kong, rejecting the liberal ideas of their youth.

China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom (Michael Doran and Peter Rough, Tablet)
China’s drive for supremacy is now underway in the Middle East—and it won’t end there

Iran’s Pact with China Is Bad News for the West (Alam Saleh and Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas, Foreign Policy)
Tehran’s new strategic partnership with Beijing will give the Chinese a strategic foothold and strengthen Iran’s economy and regional clout.

TikTok Is Inane. China’s Imperial Ambition Is Not. (Niall Ferguson, Bloomberg)
The U.S. won the Cold War by exporting its values, and China has a similar plan for Cold War II.

Is This Trump’s Real TikTok ‘Spyware’ Risk? (Zak Doffman, Forbes)
There’s a serious risk looming for President Trump in his fiery battle with TikTok—it hasn’t had much of a mention yet, but it will. If the next 44 days progress as planned, if Microsoft or an alternative U.S. suitor finds itself with the keys to TikTok, then overnight everything will change. And that could result in a seriously difficult problem for the administration.
As I’ve said repeatedly since the U.S. signaled its intention to censure this video-sharing app, TikTok is not spying on you. There is no evidence that suggests otherwise. Yes, TikTok does collect plenty of data—but so do all social media platforms. That data is fairly transparent and would be of little interest to a national security agency across millions of users.
How do we know this? Security experts have reverse engineered the appcaptured its data flowsanalyzed its activity. How those reports are nuanced is critical. You can attack as intrusive all social media apps for tagging locations, phone IDs and activity on their platforms. It’s a grey area. But it’s a world away from apps that secretly exfiltrate other data—credentials. contacts, browser history, files, photos, feeds from cameras and microphones. When we speak of spyware, that’s what we mean.

Chinese Tech Companies Could Face Trouble in Europe (Laurens Cerulus et al., Politico)
After Huawei, all eyes are on TikTok. But security hawks are also looking at other Chinese tech firms.

Why Is the United States Effectively Banning WeChat and TikTok?(James Palmer, Foreign Policy)
Apps are just the latest frontier in the U.S.-China contest. Washington is signaling to global firms the risks of doing business with Beijing.