Trump loses second court case over TikTok ban as Biden’s China stance solidifies

Trump loses second court case over TikTok ban as Biden’s China stance solidifies
Source: Mike Blake, Reuters

On Monday, the Trump administration’s attempt to block TikTok in the United States over national security concerns was blocked for a second time by a federal court judge.

The judge, Carl Nichols of the US District Court in Washington, DC, said that the Secretary of Commerce “likely overstepped” its use of emergency powers given by the president, adding that the Commerce Department had “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

The White House has been locked in legal fights against the Beijing-based social media platform since August, when President Donald Trump first signed a series of executive orders that would sever all economic ties between the US and both TikTok and WeChat.

Trump’s attempt to ban TikTok was first blocked in October, just weeks before the ban would have taken effect. The verdict stemmed from a lawsuit brought by TikTok influencers in Pennsylvania. The Trump administration has since appealed.

Origins of the TikTok ban

On July 6, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US was looking into banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps. This came amid tense discussions about the role of Chinese technology in the US, discussions that weren’t limited to only TikTok but involved other Chinese-owned companies as well, including Huawei.

The announced ban on TikTok came only a couple of weeks after a campaign rally held by Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event, the first rally since nationwide closures caused by COVID-19, saw significantly lower than expected attendance. The low attendance was attributed by many to anti-Trump TikTok users reserving tickets to the event without actually showing up.

A month later, on August 6, President Trump signed an executive order designed to ban the app in the US – an act many saw as retribution for his poorly attended rally.

According to a statement by the Commerce Department, the point of the ban would be “to safeguard the national security of the United States.” It also accused the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of having “demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.”

The date of the app’s official ban has been pushed back several times due to a mix of court blockings and attempts by TikTok to divest in order to remain in the US.

TikTok in a Biden administration

Despite Trump’s occasionally inconsistent stance on China, the tough measures he has attempted to impose on TikTok didn’t surprise many as they came from a president who has already levied hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports during his time in office.

But many see Biden’s stance on the app as an indicator of what his administration’s relationship might be with China.

Biden is expected to bring a stable but firm hand to relations with China, with most experts in agreement that the president-elect should take advantage of the aggressive, unilateral approach that was put in place under the Trump administration, while also returning a sense of stability to the relationship between the two countries.

“The Biden administration will handle things with China much differently and China already knows that,” Kevin Bell, a patent expert and former China Embassy adviser, told TMS. “There will be less volatility by the Biden administration and a renewed pattern of more traditional diplomatic exchanges.”

“The Trump administration’s recent actions are giving China’s President Xi a platform to retaliate in kind,” he said. “A race to the bottom is not the way the US should be treating diplomacy towards China. It gets the US nowhere.”

Biden told reporters in September that he sees TikTok as “a matter of genuine concern,” but has yet to state a position either in support of or in opposition to a ban.

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