Mark Zuckerberg put down On a trip to Beijing, which apparently aimed to persuade the government to run Facebook in China, the CEO took the time to jog-cum-photo-opp on a polluted Tiananmen Square.
At home in Silicon Valley, Tencent, China’s leading social media company, had an easier adventure overseas. The owner of the popular messaging app WeChat acquired a majority stake in Riot Games in Los Angeles, the producer of smash hits League of legendsin 2011 and took full ownership in December 2015.
The contrast has increased in the years since Zuckerberg’s smog jogging. The stunt ultimately did little to secure Facebook̵
Now, however, Tencent and other Chinese companies are facing US hostility, much like Facebook in China.
On Monday, President Trump repeated his threat to ban TikTok, a hugely popular US video sharing app from China’s byte dance. Officials warn that TikTok may allow espionage or manipulate public opinion at Beijing’s behest. Microsoft said on Sunday that it is discussing a possible acquisition to save TikTok in the US; Trump gave approval for such a deal on Monday.
However, TikTok is unlikely to mark the end of the administration’s efforts. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this in an interview with Fox News on Sunday. “These Chinese software companies that do business in the United States, be it TikTok or WeChat, are sharing data directly with the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,” said Pompeo. “These are the issues that President Trump has made clear that we will take care of.”
Tencent’s WeChat, a social networking platform that supports mini-apps for payments, e-commerce and more, is ubiquitous in China, but has only a few million users in the United States, mostly Chinese expats or westerners with contacts in Asia. It is unclear whether Tencent likes games League of legends and Honor of kings, The target group could also be hundreds of millions of monthly users worldwide who generate billions in revenue every year.
Tencent’s U.S. officials have tacitly claimed that WeChat is not a threat. You previously attempted to address privacy and security concerns by claiming that US user data is stored and retained in the United States. And they say that Chinese censorship doesn’t apply to those who use the app in the U.S. (TikTok makes the same arguments.) This year, according to Congress records, the company hired lobbyists in Washington, DC for the first time about Riot Games. Tencent declined to comment.
“The question is, if a Chinese entertainment app like TikTok is perceived by the United States as a national security threat, which app the Chinese developed isn’t?” says Yun Sun, co-director of the Stimson Center, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC that aims to promote international peace and stability. “We see that Chinese companies are increasingly concerned about the environment in which they operate or will operate in the US market.”
Yun believes that Chinese technology companies can still address US government concerns by possibly accepting compliance officers or overseas board members as regulators. “It’s not that there is absolutely no way for the Chinese to remove the security threat,” she says. It is far from clear whether such extreme measures would be acceptable to the Chinese government or whether they would dispel US concerns.
Chinese companies in other industries are already facing restrictions and increasing pressure. Telecommunications giant Huawei has been banned from US networks and is under investigation and sanctioning for allegedly stealing intellectual property, alleged links with the Chinese government, and alleged sales to Iran.