Bipartisanship at its best (or worst): The ban and the blather

As much as Democrats and Republicans try to appear different from one another, sometimes they can’t help sounding alike.

This was obvious in the 352-65 vote in the House of Representatives to compel Chinese internet company ByteDance to sell the social media platform TikTok — or be banned in the U.S.

“The best-case scenario is that TikTok continues to operate but is no longer owned — and potentially controlled — by an adversarial government,” said North Carolina Democrat Jeff Jackson.

This cartoon was first published on on April 4, 2023. Cartoon: Tony Murphy

“The Chinese Communist Party’s ability to exploit private user data and to manipulate public opinion through TikTok present serious national security concerns,” Rep. Adam Schiff, candidate for senator who recently won the California Democratic primary election, chimed in. (, March 17)

Not to be outdone, Republican representatives made similar comments. “The House just passed a bipartisan bill to force TikTok to sever their ties with the Chinese Communist Party,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise posted on X. Bill Sponsor Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin celebrated the bill’s passing with a cookie cake.

Numerous House representatives on both sides of the aisle made similar statements.  President Joe Biden says he will sign the bill if it passes in the Senate.

But the facts don’t square with the anti-communist rhetoric of these sound-alike capitalist politicians. TikTok is not owned, in whole or in part, by the Communist Party of China. The Chinese government only recently acquired a 1% stake in the company.

The founder of ByteDance is Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, whose wealth is an estimated $43.4 billion. Only 20% of the company belongs to him, another 20% to ByteDance employees, with the remaining 60% share held by foreign institutional investors like BlackRock, the Carlyle Group and Susquehanna International Group. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is a citizen of Singapore, not the People’s Republic of China.

Why the vote to ban?

Moreover, all this fear-mongering bluster represents sheer hypocrisy, as many of these politicians, including Jackson and Schiff, have been using TikTok to promote their own election campaigns. But their statements and votes serve to counter any accusations that they’re “soft on China.”

Getting ByteDance to sell TikTok, with its 170 million users in the U.S., is easier said than done. According to the March 14 Financial Times, “Its price could, on paper, exceed $180 billion.” On the other hand, cutting off access to all those who use TikTok would be hugely unpopular. The politicians have been trying to rationalize their vote to their supporters on TikTok, saying they aren’t really for a ban, just a sale that takes the company out of Chinese hands.

The real beneficiaries of a ban would be TikTok’s U.S.-based competitors like Elon Musk’s X and Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

What might have been a hidden motive behind the House vote became not so hidden when Rep. Ted Cruz blurted out that TikTok was “promoting to kids self-harm videos and anti-Israel propaganda.” The platform has been used to further solidarity with Palestine and build pro-Palestine demonstrations. Meta has blocked hundreds of pro-Palestine postings, according to Human Rights Watch — hardly an anti-imperialist organization. ( Dec. 21)

Whatever the true motive for this purportedly anti-communist crusade, it’s clear that working-class and oppressed people should not be bamboozled into getting behind it. Not that that’s likely to happen. More and more of us are realizing that our fight is against capitalist exploitation, imperialism and Zionism, struggling alongside the heroic people of Palestine.

Simple Share Buttons

Share this
Simple Share Buttons