Trump's rally in Tulsa

The TikTok drama is a great test for the future of global digital commerce

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Hello from Washington, where it rarely gets quieter in August and this is no exception. I'm on vacation in Vermont, but back in the virtual DC office things get pretty frantic. The biggest guessing game in Washington is who Joe Biden will choose as Vice President. Kamala Harris is still in the mix, but watch out for Susan Rice and Karen Bass. Then there is the drama of the talks on Capitol Hill about additional fiscal incentives. No deal, or very weak deal, would mean a major self-inflicted wound on the US economy and also have a negative impact on the global economy.

But in today's column, I'm going to take a look at President Donald Trump's efforts to confront TikTok, the popular video sharing app that came to a head this weekend. Our daily chart shows a slowdown in the growth of US medical care imports, even as the virus increases.

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"We are not an M&A country"

In this way, Donald Trump announced that Air Force One would return to Florida late Friday evening to ban TikTok's activities in the United States over the ownership of China's ByteDance.

The U.S. president said on Friday that he would not support a sale of TikTok's American business to Microsoft to address national security concerns, and initially doubted the likelihood that the U.S. technology company could act as the savior of an app that delighted many younger ones American. To date, however, Microsoft has continued to talk about buying TikTok's US operations after a meeting between general manager Satya Nadella and the US president.

Trump's aggressive stance on TikTok, of course, shakes Wall Street executives and former Treasury ministers who are committed to open markets and foreign investment in the United States. But when it comes to Chinese investment in the United States, that fight is already lost. It has fallen since Trump took office, and any Chinese investment in America is already viewed with great suspicion.

The US president could target TikTok for political reasons. Trump was very effective in campaigning against a passionate anti-China embassy four years ago, and his government stepped up a series of confrontation and rhetoric against Beijing ahead of the November elections this year.

It's also about Trump's unfortunate rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, which was a flop in terms of attendance after being progressively teenaged on TikTok, reserving tickets, and then not showing up. This could have triggered his anger. But senior Trump administration officials are definitely saying that this is for national security reasons. "Every time you log on to TikTok, all of your information may go directly to the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese military, and the Chinese government," said Peter Navarro, White House production consultant, on Saturday night in Fox News.

Trump's rally in Tulsa was badly attended after being trolled by teenagers on TikTok, reserving tickets, and then not showing up. © Win McNamee / Getty

Jacob Helberg, a senior advisor to Stanford University's Cyber ​​Policy Center, wrote in a Twitter thread on Saturday that companies under Chinese law should "meet and support" their government's intelligence requests at a time when there was already great concern about Hacking originated in the Asian nation.

There are also ongoing concerns about the misuse of data by TikTok, and Helberg established the principle of reciprocity as many US technology and social media platforms are not allowed to work freely in China. The fascinating thing about the TikTok case, however, is Trump's reservations about attempts to "Americanize" TikTok by selling it to Microsoft.

For many years, lobbyists and lawyers who work for U.S. and overseas companies and are audited by the U.S. government have been using a simple playbook to dispel concerns that their businesses pose a threat to national security. It essentially consisted of reducing the participation of foreign owners as much as possible and often creating a new governance structure with a purely American board of directors, which was preferably staffed by former military or national security experts.

However, the lack of trust in China is so great that it may still be insufficient for Trump to wash TikTok with the star banner, so to speak. The attempt by ByteDance investors Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic, two US-based private equity firms to acquire TikTok's US operations has met with little response, said a person familiar with the matter, in part due to the fact that they have their own strong business relationships with China.

Incidentally, Microsoft is also strongly represented in China, which can become an important topic as the offer continues to grow. And whether TikTok will be able to maintain its U.S. presence roughly in its current form will not only be a great test of the rapidly deteriorating state of U.S.-China relations, but also of the future of digital commerce in the United States the whole world.

Mapped waters

The U.S. government wants to increase its domestic medical care production and be less reliant on imports: it surprised investors last week when it borrowed $ 765 million from Kodak to manufacture the ingredients used in generic anti-coronavirus drugs. You may also need to look elsewhere: With new cases still emerging in all parts of the United States, the increase in imports of medical care has declined.

Bar chart showing the annual percentage change in US personal protective equipment imports showing a slowdown in the growth in medical care

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