Do you really need to worry about your security on TikTok? Here’s what we know.

“TikTok has repeatedly denied that it has or ever would give up user data to the Chinese government. The company says it stores American user data on servers in the US and Singapore, which ostensibly would make it harder for the Chinese government to tap into. The company has also taken measures to separate its US business overall from its Chinese parent company. For example, TikTok doesn’t operate in China (the Chinese version of it, Douyin, does).

The CIA reportedly investigated TikTok’s security threat and found no proof that Chinese intelligence authorities have been snooping on Americans through TikTok, according to the New York Times. The agency’s assessment still found that Chinese authorities could potentially tap into Americans’ data through the app, according to the Times’s summary of the classified report. That’s why last December, the Department of Defense cautioned military personnel to delete TikTok from their smartphones over security concerns. And the Senate voted unanimously to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government devices last week.

“There’s no publicly available evidence that TikTok has ever done anything wrong,” said Segal, “but the concern is that because the Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 says any Chinese company can be drafted into espionage, a company could be forced to hand over the data.””

“A second area of concern is that apps like TikTok and WeChat censor content that the Chinese Communist Party disapproves of. On this front, there are more documented concerns, especially about WeChat.

WeChat has been found to intercept and censor political messages sent by Chinese users to US users. A report in May by Canadian researchers CitizenLab found that the app was blocking certain messages, including a political cartoon depicting the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was critical of the Chinese government. The report also found that WeChat was analyzing messages sent by international users, including those in the US, to scan for and block politically sensitive content before it could circulate among Chinese users.

With TikTok, there have been accusations — without definitive proof — of censorship at the behest of the Chinese government. Last year, internal company documents showed TikTok was instructing its staff to moderate content in line with the Chinese government’s censorship of topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre and Free Tibet, according to leaked guidelines published by the Guardian. But these guidelines were part of broad rules against controversial discussions on international politics across countries, so there’s no explicit proof that this was a directive from the Chinese government to TikTok. Another oft-cited concern about potential political censorship on TikTok is that during last year’s Hong Kong independence protests, there weren’t a lot of results for popular hashtags of the protest movement. But there’s no proof that the company was actively censoring content or whether people just weren’t posting about it.”

“It’s important to put all of this in context. TikTok and WeChat’s political troubles in the US don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather inside a larger web of complex China-US politics. Since 2018, Trump has waged a trade war with China over free trade policies that he feels disadvantage US manufacturing. And increasingly, tech has become tangled up in this war, involving Chinese-owned dating apps, drone companies, and telecom hardware makers.”

“Chesney stressed, the US isn’t making the first move here. American companies have long been banned in China, where companies that started off by building copycats of major US tech apps — Baidu is China’s answer to Google, Didi its Uber, Weibo its Twitter — have grown into tech powerhouses. US social media companies have tried, unsuccessfully, to enter the Chinese market.”

“Several analysts told Recode that some of the concern about TikTok and other Chinese technology companies is valid. But the way the TikTok order in particular has been executed — with Trump going back and forth on whether he’d approve a TikTok-Microsoft sale, and at one point demanding a cut of the deal — has been haphazard and has given the global business community a sense of distrust toward the US government.”

Trump’s New Tariffs on Canadian Aluminum Are Indefensible

“When President Donald Trump imposed 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum in March 2018, it was (predictably) American aluminum-consuming companies that suffered the most.

Companies like Whirlpool Corp., for example. The appliance manufacturer—which had previously been a cheerleader for Trump’s tariffs on imported washing machines—saw its sales and stock prices tumble in the months after Trump’s aluminum tariffs took effect, as the import taxes added to the company’s input costs. It takes a lot of aluminum to build a washing machine, after all.”

“Those tariffs had been lifted in 2019 as Trump sought to negotiate the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which officially took effect last month. But with the new trade deal in place, Trump has quickly returned to his old tricks. “Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual,” he said Thursday during a largely off-the-cuff speech at the plant. The new tariffs are slated to take effect on August 16.

Ostensibly, the justification for reimposing these tariffs is the claim that imports have increased dramatically in recent months. In reality, that’s a bunch of nonsense. The Aluminium Association says the claims of a surge in aluminum imports “are grossly exaggerated.” In fact, aluminum imports from Canada are below 2017 levels—the last year before Trump’s first round of tariffs took effect.

And even if aluminum imports were increasing, that’s not something to get upset about. The United States literally does not produce enough aluminum to meet its domestic needs, so imports are essential for supporting the 97 percent of American aluminum industry jobs that are in downstream production. And when more aluminum—or anything else—is traded back and forth between the United States and Canada, both countries benefit from the transaction. That’s how trade works.

It’s not exactly clear what Trump hopes the reinstated tariffs will accomplish, but the one thing that should be obvious is that American aluminum-consuming industries will once again be punished by the president’s trade policies.”

“The end of arms control as we know it”

“why get out of a deal that almost everyone says is vital to keeping US-Russia relations stable? The answer is China. “We need to make sure that we’ve got all of the parties that are relevant as a component of this as well,” Pompeo told

In Pushing Back against China, U.S. Finds Few Allies

“That Merkel is simply misguided on the threat China poses, as Fulda believes, is certainly possible. However, given the political climate, there is likely a graver impulse behind Merkel’s placating remarks: fear of retribution. After all, Merkel is far from the only prominent politician to skirt the issue of the CCP’s atrocious human-rights record — far from the only politician to pretend that the Chinese government is a fair party on which one can count to honor its agreements and to act with benevolence.

Last month, representatives of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Poland, and the Czech Republic on the U.N. Human Rights Council, among others, refused to condemn China for its encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy — a serious blow to a unified Western countermovement against the CCP’s actions. In all, just 27 governments expressed criticism of China’s oppression law, with 53 in favor and the rest staying silent. Just as it is hard to believe that Angela Merkel is oblivious to the crimes China is committing, it is hard to believe that only 27 governments actually found fault with an effective ban on free expression and self-determination for Hong Kongers. (Granted, fewer governments around the world are democratic than one accustomed to Western laws might believe.) Rather, history has likely taught many nations that it is more expedient to keep their mouth shut than to take a firm stance on the global superpower with the world’s second-largest economy.”

“It is difficult to summon the moral courage to openly condemn a global superpower such as China, especially when large GDP growth and stable diplomatic relations are on the line. In any case, it would appear that the United States, in enacting sanctions against Chinese officials for abusing Uighur Muslims, terminating trade benefits for now-CCP-controlled Hong Kong, closing the Chinese consulate in Houston, and imposing export controls on corporations enabling China’s activity, stands virtually alone on China.

To be sure, there is an occasional discontinuity between the Trump administration’s official policy and the president’s rhetoric. As Trump himself has admitted, he had little desire to press China on its treatment of Uighur Muslims in the middle of trade negotiations with the nation in late 2018, even though top White House officials were already viewing the situation with concern. And as late as February 29, weeks after the CIA had already warned that China had vastly underreported its coronavirus infections and that its information was unreliable, Trump stated in a COVID-19 briefing: “China seems to be making tremendous progress. Their numbers are way down. . . . I think our relationship with China is very good. We just did a big trade deal. We’re starting on another trade deal with China — a very big one. And we’ve been working very closely. They’ve been talking to our people, we’ve been talking to their people, having to do with the virus.” But despite occasional confusion, the commitment to a solidly anti-Beijing foreign policy has been perhaps clearer in the Trump administration than in the government of any other country besides India and Taiwan. This is reflected not only in the U.S.’s recent policies but in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s denunciation of Xi, last week, as a “true believer in a bankrupt, totalitarian ideology” and in his insistence that the United States “induce China to change” lest Communist China “surely change us.””

“barring a massive change in European attitudes and in the fragile economic positions of nations such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the United States will not have many reliable allies in the fight against China’s most egregious abuses. The courageous pro-democracy residents of Hong Kong, as well as a few nations including Taiwan, India, and Israel, are notable but rare exceptions.”

Pompeo says U.S. ready to team up on China, but E.U. eyes a post-Trump world

“At the start of Trump’s presidency, EU leaders harbored hopes that the combative president would team up with them to address an array of issues with China, particularly related to trade disputes, on which Beijing had long refused to give any ground. Instead, Trump lumped the EU, and especially Germany, together with China as trade rivals who had taken advantage of the U.S., and even slapped punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminum products that prompted swift retaliation from Brussels.

And even as Pompeo said he was excited about the new dialogue over China, he reiterated some areas of sharp disagreement between Washington and European allies, including over Trump’s surprise decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, which Trump has linked to his political disagreements with Berlin, including Germany’s slow increases in military spending and its continued support of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Pompeo in his speech tried to insist that Trump’s decision was based on a careful “strategic review” of military deployment levels and needs — a point that has been flatly refuted by current and former U.S. military officials.

Given the deep lack of trust, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made discussing China or anything else between now and the November election in the U.S. EU leaders at the moment are intensely focused on debating their new long-term budget and a European Commission proposal for an ambitious economic recovery fund.”

Trump announced US withdrawal from the WHO. It’s unclear if he can do that.

“the WHO did make some mistakes early on in the pandemic, such as not pushing China to allow international inspectors into the country as the coronavirus outbreak grew, and falsely asserting in January that “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of Covid-19.

But that’s a far cry from proof of some special WHO-China conspiracy, and serves as a convenient excuse to distract from Trump’s lacking coronavirus response in the US — including ignoring months of US intelligence warning of an imminent threat to the country from the virus.”

“the president’s decision will be a major blow to the WHO. America’s withdrawal means the health body will lose nearly $900 million in US contributions every two years, by far the most the body receives from any nation. Trump had already frozen about $400 million of that money last month when he first froze funding during a review of US-WHO relations.
The US will now be “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said, without naming what those might be.

In one fell swoop, Trump is making the global coronavirus response harder to coordinate, has possibly ignited a congressional firestorm, and almost surely worsened the world’s perceptions of America.”

Why Iran is still attacking American troops during the pandemic

“So why, in the midst of grappling with an out-of-control pandemic and an economy in free fall, would Tehran devote time and money to fighting the US? The answer, at least in part, is that the Iranian government believes the United States is particularly weak right now, too.
With Washington’s ineptitude on full display in its domestic response to the coronavirus, few people outside of a select group of Iran hawks — which includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have much of an appetite for continued clashes with Iranian proxies in Iraq or incidents with the IRGC in the Persian Gulf right now.

The United States is also a convenient scapegoat and distraction that the Iranian regime regularly uses to deflect attention from its own failures.

Facing growing criticism at home and abroad for their abysmal response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Iranian leaders have tried to shift the blame to the US — particularly the stringent economic sanctions Washington has placed on the country, which Iranian leaders say (not entirely unfairly) are hampering the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic.”

“The US assassination of Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020, was intended to not only take Iran’s most capable military figure off the battlefield but also to “reestablish deterrence” — that is, to raise the stakes so that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq would think twice about attacking US forces in the country going forward.

However, a series of recent attacks shows that far from being cowed, these militias appear to have been emboldened. In all likelihood, Iran is only in the nascent stages of responding to the death of Soleimani.”

“The coronavirus pandemic sweeping throughout the world has led the United States to draw down its forces, repositioning soldiers within Iraq and consolidating troops to fewer bases. US special forces soldiers have been withdrawn from some of the world’s most dangerous active conflict zones, leaving local host-nation forces to contend with an array of well-equipped and battle-hardened terrorists, insurgents, and militias.

This has presented Iran with a unique opportunity to expand and consolidate its control in Iraq and push the US entirely out. And the country’s leaders aren’t going to squander their chance.”

” From Tehran, the United States looks at its weakest in years. The country is struggling to formulate a coherent and effective response to Covid-19. The divisions between the United States and its traditional allies are glaring. In terms of US-Iran tensions, US allies in Europe place much of the blame on America, not the Islamic Republic.”

What will Palestinians do now?

“In diplomatic terms, it’s dead. Once the Palestinians and the Arab states take a clear position, then the Europeans will follow suit, and the Russians would come on board, and in the end we’re likely going to end up with a plan that is only truly supported by the US and Israel, and maybe some marginal countries.”

Trump signed a “phase one” trade deal with China. Here’s what’s in it — and what’s not.

“This “phase one” deal, which the US and China reached in December, will cool trade tensions between two economic superpowers that have rattled the globe.

But it stops short of the comprehensive trade and reform agreement the Trump administration wanted when it launched its trade war with China in 2018.

Instead, China has agreed to make purchases of about $200 billion worth of US goods over a two-year period, including almost doubling its agricultural purchases to $40 billion.

China also made concessions on intellectual property, currency, and access to financial services, and it’s promised to halt the practice of forcing companies to turn over their technology, according to the United States Trade Representative.

The US, in exchange, will call off and reduce some tariffs, though taxes on $360 billion in Chinese goods will stay in place.

President Donald Trump is selling this deal as an enormous win, but the administration did not get the structural changes to China’s economy that it wanted, including tackling things like Beijing’s huge subsidies to Chinese companies. It’s still not clear if China can or will totally fulfill this obligation to buy US products, and even if it does, the guarantee is only for two years.

Given all that, this partial trade deal might not be able to make up for the pain the trade war caused.”

“few experts think such a phase two is possible. It’s much more likely the US settled because this is all it could get out of China — and for Trump, it was worth it to have something he could brag about ahead of the 2020 election.”