Not Only TikTok, Chinese Apps Face Even Tougher Challenges in Overseas Markets.
On May 17th, Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana, USA, signed an executive order that will completely ban TikTok within the state starting from January 1, 2024. It also prohibits Google and Apple app stores from providing download access to TikTok. Montana thus becomes the first U.S. state to fully ban TikTok.
According to the executive order, violators will be fined $10,000 for each offense, with an additional $10,000 fine per day during the period of non-compliance. These fines target service providers offering download access to TikTok, while users themselves will not be fined.
Following the announcement of the TikTok ban, the governor took to Twitter to express his views. In his tweet, he referred to TikTok as “just an app from a foreign adversary” and stated, “I have directed Montana’s Chief Information Officer to block any application that sends personal information or data to foreign adversaries from our state networks.”
Meanwhile, the governor of Montana also unveiled an executive order to expand the TikTok ban. The order indicates that Chinese apps such as WeChat, Temu, CapCut, and Lemon8 will be prohibited from use on devices owned by the Montana government and third-party companies. This ban will take effect on June 1st of this year.
Ban Reason: Providing Information to Foreign Adversaries
According to the aforementioned executive order, China is considered a competitor of the United States and Montana, with an interest in collecting information regarding Montana residents, Montana companies, and user intellectual property for corporate and international “espionage activities.” Additionally, TikTok has failed to remove and may even promote dangerous content that could guide minors into engaging in risky activities. Various challenges initiated on the platform also pose threats to the safety and well-being of Montana residents.
The ban order states that, similar to TikTok, popular social media applications such as WeChat and Temu are categorized as products of countries identified by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce as foreign adversaries. If any of the aforementioned “software that provides information and data to foreign adversaries” has already been downloaded, it must be immediately removed.
The order highlights that Temu’s parent company, Pinduoduo, based in Shanghai, China, is a Chinese company and should be banned. However, surprisingly, similar fast-fashion cross-border e-commerce platform Shein is not classified as a Chinese company and is not included in the ban.
Relevant data shows that since Temu’s official launch in the United States in September of last year, as of February 23, 2023, the Temu app has surpassed 40 million downloads, with the highest growth rate among new users. It has dominated the AppStore shopping charts for 69 days and the Google Play shopping charts for 114 days. Currently, Temu has facilitated the entry of over ten thousand Chinese manufacturing companies into overseas markets such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
However, the recent series of bans undoubtedly brings crisis and challenges to the globalization process of Chinese enterprises.
Ban Reason: Providing Information to Foreign Adversaries
On March 20th, TikTok CEO Zhang Shouzi stated before attending a hearing of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee that TikTok has reached 150 million monthly active users in the United States, surpassing the previously announced 100 million in 2020.
In response to the signing of the Montana state bill on May 17th, TikTok expressed that the law illegally bans TikTok and infringes on the freedom of speech granted to the people of Montana by the First Amendment. “We want Montana residents to feel reassured that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community, as we will continue to work to defend the rights of TikTok users inside and outside Montana.”
In light of this, Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, stated in a statement, “Because Montana cannot demonstrate that this ban is necessary or tailored to serve any legitimate interest, the law is almost certain to be struck down as unconstitutional.”
An article published by The Wall Street Journal on April 26th pointed out that apart from the First Amendment of the Constitution, the ban will also face legal challenges regarding interstate commerce and deprivation of citizens’ rights. According to relevant laws, the US government cannot declare an entity guilty of a crime without due process.
In fact, as early as December of last year, the Governor of Montana issued an executive order, leading the way in banning TikTok on government and third-party company devices in Montana, repeatedly stating the intention to ban TikTok among the general public through legal means.
In early April of this year, several public universities in Florida were required to ban Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, from campus networks and public devices in order to “protect data security.”
With the repeat actions taken by Montana, once again banning Chinese apps on government and third-party company devices, their intentions are self-evident. WeChat, Temu, and other Chinese apps may become the targets of the next comprehensive ban, posing new challenges to Chinese apps and Chinese companies’ overseas expansion.
During a routine press conference by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this year, when asked about TikTok-related issues, it was stated that professional issues should be resolved in a professional manner. Suppressing others doesn’t make you stronger.