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Trump vs. TikTok

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to ban TikTok proves at least two things. It shows how America has turned its back on the values that have made it great.  It also shows to the world that it doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation.

Now, it’s just an app! Many of the videos are actually quite silly. But watching them makes me laugh and forget about the heaviness of our daily lives. For Americans, I guess it gives them a nice break as well, when hundreds of their compatriots are dying of a virus and people bickering over a piece of cloth on their face!

I’ve heard creators are making their livelihood on TikTok as well, and a special fund is expected to support them further. This is a good thing with such staggering unemployment numbers in the U.S.

This is especially true for some talented Americans who have attracted a large audience within a short period of time, who haven’t had this kind of opportunity if they followed the traditional agent model. With this app, they found a brand new platform of expression and creativity, something no other American app has been able to do. And now President Trump wants to take that opportunity away?

TikTok’s users might have staged the emptier stadium in Tulsa, which annoyed President Trump. But that might have spared a few dozen COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma. President Trump might not have liked how the BlackLivesMatter hashtag went viral on TikTok, but that’s against the enshrined First Amendment in the Constitution of the good old U.S. of A. Remember they always accuse others of suppressing freedom of expression, right?

President Trump says the case against TikTok is based on its connection to China.

His trade adviser has openly accused TikTok of stealing personal data and sharing them with the Chinese government. But none of these accusations can be backed up. It’s the same person who said China “spawned” the coronavirus. And President Trump and his Secretary of State Pompeo said they saw evidence the virus came from a lab in Wuhan. They said Huawei could pose security risks… They said this and that, just short of showing evidence. So, guilty until proven innocent?  I thought it’s innocent until proven guilty.

Never mind, what are tech experts saying?

A Washington Post piece examined this very question. Among other things they found, TikTok doesn’t take any more of a user’s data than Facebook. TikTok’s app doesn’t do any of these shady things to a user’s phone more than routine tasks as other similar applications would do. And that “there’s scant evidence that TikTok is sharing our data with China.”

A story on the tech magazine Wired asked the same questions. And experts have found TikTok appears to be “in the same league” as other social media applications in data collection, even, pretty tame compared to other apps.  And that people are only guessing what the Chinese government can do if they ever get a hold of private data of Americans.

Now don’t judge a person by the color of his or her skin, but the content of his or her character. Now judge a company not of what it does but where it comes from?  Sounds like an original sin that can’t be erased. TikTok has done almost everything possible to become “of Americans,” “by Americans” and “for Americans:” its servers in America (and Singapore), hiring an American CEO, creating American jobs, paying American taxes and servicing American consumers.  And yet, it seems just not enough.

It’s now asked to be completely severed from its China origin. The move is like forcing someone to disown his or her parents; changing all the blood and selling oneself to a new family, while taking a cut from the proceeds.

Whatever happens, it was a Chinese idea. Some American politicians have been jousting China for stealing American IP. Now by arm-twisting TikTok, they have actually acknowledged America doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation.  China can come up with good ideas too.

When one can’t compete, one takes?

With TikTok having been widely used already, that tyranny, and the tyranny over people’s laughter and happiness as well, could be reciprocated on ballots on November 3.

Someone said by threatening to ban TikTok, Trump has just solved the age-old problem of how to motivate young people to come out and vote.

I can almost hear these people scream at the top of their lungs: Give me TikTok or give me death!

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Xi-Biden Call Analysis: Cooperation Should be Based Upon Mutual Respect

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In the first phone conversation between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies in seven months, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning had a “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic communication and exchanges” with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant departments of the two countries may continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery as well as on major international and regional issues,” Xi told Biden. 

White House officials said Biden initiated the 90-minute phone call, which is only the second of this kind since the U.S. president took office.

There had been high expectations for Biden to improve bilateral relations ever since he replaced former President Donald Trump in January.

Biden’s China journey four decades on

Biden came to China in 1979 as a member of the first delegation the U.S. Congress sent to China. The then senator said in a speech that China’s development was good for the United States.

He visited China again in 2011, and wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “a successful China can make our country [U.S.] more prosperous, not less.” 

“On issues from global security to global economic growth, we share common challenges and responsibilities – and we have incentives to work together,” read the article titled “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise.”

In his first phone call with Xi on the eve of the Chinese New Year in February this year, Biden sent his greetings to the Chinese people. He said he was prepared to have candid and constructive dialogue with China in the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.

Yet such goodwill failed to match up with the actions, according to Yuyuantantian, a public WeChat account that focuses on current affairs. And hostility has been particularly evident in the U.S. Congress. 

In recent months, there have been more China-related bills in the U.S. Congress than ever before, with more than a dozen in July alone, most of which recommended the adoption of opposing or restrictive policies against China. 

The U.S. has made a major strategic miscalculation on China, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as quoted in the Yuyuantantian article. “It mistakenly takes China as a major strategic competitor and believes whatever China does is aimed at undermining the U.S. leadership and dominating the international order.”

Xi has said China and the United States will have different views on some issues, but the key is to respect each other and treat each other as equals. But the U.S. has yet to learn to do that, according to Yuyuantantian.

‘Whether China, U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world’

China and the United States are respectively the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world, and it is a question of the century to which the two countries must provide a good answer, Xi said in the Friday phone conversation.

The two countries should bring relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible for the good of the people in both countries and around the world, he added.

How to get China-U.S. relations back on track has become a “must-solve problem,” Yuyuantantian commented, adding that the ball is now in the U.S. court. 

Washington is gradually losing its reputation all around the world, the public account said. “If it really wants cooperation, it has to ‘get off its high horse,’ face the reality and start an open dialogue with China,” it added. 

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Through the lens: How 20 Years of Conflict Since 9/11 Changed Afghanistan

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The Afghanistan war ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Two decades ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks led the U.S. to formulate its controversial counter-terrorism policy, including its longest war in history – the war in Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, the mountainous country nestled in the heartland of Asia has once again come to a crossroads as the U.S. withdrew its troops, with the Taliban reclaiming the power they lost two decades ago.

Afghanistan has long been a battlefield for global powers, but it has never been conquered, hence its moniker – the “Graveyard of Empires.”

In the series “Through the lens: Afghanistan 2001-2021,” we dive into the scars the war has left on the country, and the fear, wrath and resilience of the Afghan people, in eight episodes.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: How the ‘war on terror’ begins

The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: America’s longest war

The U.S. military invaded the country, already war-plagued and impoverished, in the name of the “war on terror.” 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The poppies blossom

In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. “Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: Fears and tears

In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The Displaced

Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The skyline and the slum

In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The withdrawal

On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The future is murky

How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.

Editors: Zeng Ziyi, Zhao Yue, Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing, Zhong Xia, Du Junzhi 

Images designed by Liu Shaozhen

Graphics by Yang Yiren 

Producer: Wang Xiaonan 

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Xi Jinping Urges ‘True Multilateralism’ in World’s ‘Daunting’ Economic Recovery from COVID-19

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said the world economy is undergoing a “daunting recovery” which requires “true multilateralism” in the face of fresh COVID-19 flare-ups.

“We are ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link from Beijing.

The forum – held in Russia every year since 2015 – has the goal of promoting multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year’s session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the speech, Xi called for the international community to unite. “We need to intensify cooperation in vaccine research, development and production, provide more public goods to the international community,” he said.

The Chinese president also voiced opposition to any sort of politicization of COVID-19 vaccines and origins-tracing.

Extra efforts for mutually-beneficial cooperation

“We need to redouble our efforts to advance mutually-beneficial cooperation,” Xi said at the opening ceremony.

He called for the deepening of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union in areas including digital economy and climate change.

The Chinese president also urged the group to embrace a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” by “narrowing differences” and “building consensus through dialogue and exchanges.”

As Friday marks the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi also called for the defense of the victory’s outcomes.

“The international community must defend firmly the victorious outcomes of World War II, safeguard the truth of history, and stay committed to taking history as a mirror to open up a brighter future,” Xi said.

(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link, September 3, 2021. /Xinhua)

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