World & U.S. News

The TikTok: China’s Information Influence Operations Reaching 170 Million Americans

In a revealing interview with Fox News Digital, Michael Sobolik, a prominent China expert and author of “Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance,” sheds light on the escalating concerns surrounding TikTok’s role in U.S.-China relations. Sobolik, also a Senior Fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, articulates the severe implications of TikTok’s operations in the United States, branding it as “China’s greatest asymmetric advantage against America.”

The Threat to American Democracy

Sobolik underscores the profound national security threat TikTok poses, driven by its extensive reach—170 million Americans engage with the app, with 150 million spending at least an hour daily. He stresses that a significant number of these users consume news via TikTok, which falls under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to TikTok developer ByteDance’s obligation to adhere to Beijing’s mandates.

The app’s manipulation capabilities are profound. The CCP can direct TikTok to suppress or amplify content, effectively shaping public opinion on sensitive issues such as Tibet, the Uyghurs, and Tiananmen Square. Sobolik points out that these are not theoretical concerns but documented realities, warning of the potential for misinformation, especially in scenarios like a conflict involving Taiwan.

China’s Propaganda Machinery

Explaining the mechanics of China’s influence, Sobolik describes TikTok as a tool for “infiltrating our civil discourse.” The app serves as a direct line through which the CCP can manipulate half of America’s population—those active on TikTok. This control extends to tweaking algorithms to favor pro-CCP narratives, a tactic that could have significant repercussions in shaping U.S. policies and public sentiment.

Legislative Responses and Public Opinion

Debates in Congress have oscillated between banning TikTok and forcing its sale to a non-Chinese entity, reflecting the complex balance between national security concerns and First Amendment rights. However, Sobolik dismisses the latter as irrelevant in this context, arguing the paramount importance of national security over free speech in TikTok’s case.

Despite these discussions, the path forward remains uncertain. Sobolik emphasizes the urgency of addressing this issue, likening inaction to neglecting national defense. He advocates for decisive action, suggesting that effectively managing the TikTok dilemma would signal U.S. commitment to countering global authoritarian influences.

A Test for America

The American public does not understand how dangerous it is to have foreign control of a communications channel with this kind of reach and intensity. The propaganda power within China’s grasp is enough to influence elections, to influence popular opinion about public policy and to give China an advantage in every confrontation with the United States.

World & U.S. News