Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Trump says he will ban TikTok through executive action (cnbc.com)
416 points by busymom0 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 653 comments

Not US citizen here. Can someone explain how in a democracy the chief executive can singlehandedly decide to ban a media only a few month before elections?

I can't make any sense of that, it seems wrong at so many levels...

The short answer is that he can't. The president has no power to ban TikTok. The president also has no control over how the app is distributed or its connectivity. He can say whatever he wants, and he can strongarm the agencies he has some control over (like the FCC), but there's simply no mechanism by which a ban can be enforced, legal or technical. Unless Google and Apple decide to voluntarily remove it from their app stores and forcibly remove existing downloads, it's not going away, and neither company is going to do that without a legal battle. There's no one who even has the authority to demand it, though.

I want you to be right, but I don't think you are.

He's likely to issue some kind of executive order forcing bytedance to divest tiktok to continue operations. We may see some DoJ or FCC enforcement action that's effectively a "ban" (for users) while only being legally a temporary disruption of service pending compliance (for lawmakers, judges, enforcement agencies, etc to be okay with it). As we have learned over the last 4 years, the president has near absolute control over all federal actions.

I think the safe bet is a bunch of saber rattling that ends with some US entity buying tiktok.

He is right actually, and has a great argument and I don't feel you are correct at all. It looks like TikTok USA is currently trying to shut him down by simply becoming a completely independent company that is USA based and doesn't share any data with China. That is the 3rd option.

However if the CIA has some evidence that the Chinese are gathering up information and feeding it straight to their cybertroll farms then he absolutely can shut it all down and arrest some people because then they are breaking the law and that falls under Federal police power.

> As we have learned over the last 4 years, the president has near absolute control over all federal actions.

Maybe this period in history is a hint to stop electing legislators that are happier letting someone else do all the hard work of deciding what the government should do.

Most likely it will be added to the OFAC sanction list at which point both Google and apple will delist the app within a few days. You can read up on how the SDN lists are basically the long arm of US law and can completely excise someone from modern society (even if they live outside the US). Banks will refuse to complete payments, merchants will refuse service, shipping companies will return packages, etc.

> The short answer is that he can't.

It depends upon what you mean by "can't."

If you mean legal authority to block a specific app, no.

If you mean use his authority to influence & effectively make it happen, he can.

In other words, it is very much a threat with teeth. It would just be a roundabout path for implementation.

Money and top secret guidelines could make this happen completely legally. I see TikTok as a strategic platform, including geopolitical. It is a wire into 100 million mostly young American minds.

> The president has no power to ban TikTok

This is the #1 mistake people have made over and over with Trump. “He can’t...”, “He won’t...”, “He wouldn’t...”, “He’ll never...”.

He doesn’t play by any rules. You have to assume anything and everything is on the table. If he really wants to ban TikTok he’ll either get it done or scorch the earth trying.

Do you really think once someone says, “Mr. Trump there’s no mechanism for you to legally ban TikTok” he’ll be like, “Oh yeah my bad, I better get back to work on helping America through this pandemic.”

He knows he can say whatever he wants and strongarm whoever he wants. That is his literal playbook!

>He doesn’t play by any rules. You have to assume anything and everything is on the table. If he really wants to ban TikTok he’ll either get it done or scorch the earth trying.

History suggests otherwise - more often than not he neither gets it done nor scorches the earth trying:

■ Trump wanted to change the date of the election, or suspend it entirely.

■ Trump wanted to send the military in to quell domestic riots.

■ Trump wanted to force states to reopen on his timetable.

■ Trump wanted to force American companies to manufacture domestically.

■ Trump wanted to repeal DACA.

■ Trump wanted to repeal Obamacare.

■ Trump wanted to ban Muslim immigration.

■ Trump wanted to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

The list of things Trump has tried to make happen, only to be sent whimpering back into the corner like a whipped dog, far outstrips his actual accomplishments.

You are right. Trump does not have the power to go into 100M phones, remove the apps, and disable the services that run them.

What Trump does have is the power of government, which will make it awfully easy for Apple and Google to do it for him.

I guess you never heard about what happened with Huawei?

It‘s a question of distribution power. If the power is granted to the executive branch, they can do it. It‘s part of decisions on their own country. I consider it much more questionable to exert power over allied countries to stop extraterritorial infrastructure projects (i.e. Nordstream 2), because the US wants to sell fracking gas to europe. I‘m sure that using such power will lead to losing it long-term and former allies for mutual profit will grow apart.

> It‘s a question of distribution power. If the power is granted to the executive branch, they can do it.

Any notably the power the executive branch holds, which the US classically prided themselves on being strictly limited in scope - as directly opposed to the monarchies the founding fathers resent, has exploded in power since 9/11 under Bush, then later even more so under Obama.

People had been critiquing the power grabs at the time for this exact reasons, knowing that they won't just be used to fight 'terrorism', which was always the pretext.

The fact almost every controversial thing Trump has done outside of congress has been using national security powers is not surprising. That authority was handed to them long ago and was always open to abuse.

The very broad national security laws in the US are the root source of the centralization of power. Simply changing who the president won't stop this train either. A lot of other country's presidents/prime ministers gained tons of power under the guise of counter-terrorism - including Canada and the UK.

“National security” itself is literally removing checks and balances in our democracy in order to be more dictatorship like. That’s it.

Think about the Hong Kong national security act. Think about the patriot act and all it’s powers.

> I consider it much more questionable to exert power over allied countries to stop extraterritorial infrastructure projects (i.e. Nordstream 2)

Nordstream 2 is a great example. Sanctioning a country that was literally the wall between you and the East is such an extremely stupid move. Just confirms Merkels sentence: "Europe can not rely on the US any longer".

German here and I have to, say: You lost me there, buddy. Even though I despise Putin and all what he stands for, I would now vote for polititians, who take a hard stance here, get the project done and take countermeasures or even sanctions against the US. Mind your own business! You have several catastrophes at home going on, maybe do something about that? We will buy our gas whereever we want to. Thanks for asking, we are doing fine here. So if you don't have a better deal for us kindly leave us alone.

Yet German politicians still want US troops to stay in Germany for "Russia Protection" - while never meeting their NATO promised GDP contribution of 2% in the last 5 years.

The 2% is a guideline and is meant to be reached in 2024 (!), but it‘s no obligation. Don‘t believe everything Trump spits out. The US has a huge military interest to station troops in Europe and most people in Germany would like them to withdraw their nuclear bombs.

Putin is going to use NordStream to exert pressure on Germany. There’s no doubt about it. They use gas pipelines as a pressure point with Ukraine and Belarus all the time.

They are using it to exert pressure on Ukraine, not Germany. Germany is doing fine, thank you. The US should mind it's own business.

How would that even work, exerting pressure by merely providing another pipeline?

Look up Ukraine and Nordstream 2. Also you need to look up the purpose of the pipeline. It’s supposed to become the primary pipeline, not a simple small supplement.

Basically: grow dependence, extract concessions. The same way a crack dealer on a street corner does.

And how would dependence on US gas delivered by ship be any better? As far as I can tell, it is the US acting up and sanctioning a German project at the moment. Not a great sales-pitch for future business.

There is no salvation West or East of Europe. Europe has to do it's own thing. The US has shown, that we are mereley allies as long as we are useful and it does not hesitate to sanction it's allies. There is no friendship between countries.

Ukraine is a different story altogether: yes, having a pipeline that goes around Ukraine makes it impossible for Ukraine to put pressure by shutting down the the pipeline.

Still, it's unrelated to Nord Stream 2. There is no risk to Germany there, simply because it's entirely voluntary mechanism.

Putin depends much more on selling the gas than Germany on buying it. Russia also sold gas all through the cold war. They can‘t use it as a weapon, because it would destroy themselves. Germany is also building LNG terminals. And even if this were the case: it‘s none of the USAs business. They want to sell freedom molecules, nothing else.

Germany: underfunding its commitment to defense while undermining its national security by making itself completely dependent on Russia’s energy. Look how well that’s working out for Ukraine (starved of the energy that’s instead going to be routed through the Nordstream 2). And what about your former chancellor caught in the middle of selling out your sovereignty: Gerhard Schröder.

As for your last comment, the one insisting sanctions against the US: Merkel might have her foot on the throat of the rest of Europe, but we’re not going to see the day when Germany finally builds the empire of their dreams.

That's one onesided way to interpret the war in Ukraine. There are others. Even if it was the right one, the US is in no position to talk about illegitimate wars. The US has it's own shitshow going on in the Middle East (where it has no border and really no business being whatsoever), so maybe it should fix that first, before bothering Germany about where and with whom it wants to build pipes.

The US is no position to police other countries - especially not European ones, who are not even part of one - about illegitimate wars.

Regarding the empire I don't know what you are talking about. If the US sanctions Germany, Germany is economically perfectly capable of creating countermeasures. I say we should do so, because I cannot stand this arrogance. If the US starts trade wars with everyone, it hurts itself the most.

Note that a platform is being banned that's not tied to particular speech. I still think it's wrong for an individual to be able to do this

Platforms can be heavily tied to particular speech - e.g. Parler, Gab, etc. Banning a platform can hinder the groups that tend to use those platforms.

It seems kind of absurd to just ban one of the most popular apps in the world over night like this, especially with a US company about to buy it. On the other hand, I agree that China has had an unfair advantage in terms of banning US apps. But an overnight ban? This could have been played better.

The interesting question is: What's the end-game here? Europe seems to be heading in the same direction. We obviously want global social networks, and no country is happy with a winner-take-all where they're not the winner. So my (optimistic) guess is that we'll end up with federated (or otherwise distributed/decentralised) networks.

And heavliy tied speaker identity, and audience attention, that makes speech heard

Congress loves giving away power to the Executive Branch so they don't have to bear responsibility for unpopular decisions. It's likely that at some point Congress gave this power to the president though not necessarily this Congress and this president. Congress is free to take the power back if it votes to do so.

Given that even the Biden campaign has prohibited their workers from installing the TikTok app, there isn't likely to be much of a partisan fight over this issue.

But you have no safeguard against that?

I mean here in France when the government or the assembly trie to pass a law that is potentially unconstitutional there is an emergency review process by the "constitutional council" that can veto all or parts of the law that infringe.

This process just happened recently because our president tried to pass a "hate law" on social media that was deemed unconstitutional because it had too many unpredictable side effects on free speech principles.

While it seems quite absurd, most governments make this kinds of decisions.

For instance, France has used similar tactics when rumors of Pepsi buying Danone came to light.

> But you have no safeguard against that?

We do: the judicial branch.

Which is stacked by the party in power.

For example the Republican stalling of appointment until they where in power.

Thus surely showing it’s not stacked by the party in power?

Well, showing that it's stacked by a combination of the party in power in the Senate and the one in power in the Executive; the earlier description would have been more clear with reference to which power centers were being referred to. The Republicans used being in power in the Senate to block appointments until they also held Executive power.

Either through the National Emergency Act[1] or some other legally dubious authorization the White House counsel came up with after talking to John Yoo[2].

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Emergencies_Act

2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/20/trump-john-y...

Agreed, TBH the reporting on this has been awful, just parroting what Trump has said without challenging or explaining under what authorization he has to ban the app. I was hoping for more info in these comments but didn't really find it.

I know that the US does have the legal framework to deem the app a security threat based on its foreign ownership. Grindr, the gay hookup app, essentially had a forced sale from its Chinese owners [1].

However, if TikTok is sold to MS, and all user data is held in the US, I don't see any rationale that gives the government the power to ban the app, and MS certainly has the resources to challenge any attempted ban in the courts.

1. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/6/21168079/grindr-sold-chine...

He can try, it will never survive court unless he can prove the chinese really were up to something and then it falls into his purview of Chief Executive/Policeman. He almost certainly doesn't have that evidence or he would have already posted it to twitter. He is currently in a panic right now to create some fear/successes for the November election. He's appealing to his base and hoping to pull in a few people who hate "the reds".

Shows how far the balance of power has shifted in the last 20 years back when the Chinese government was banning western products to prevent "spiritual pollution" and "western influence". Now we got the reverse and it's also for ideological reasons (at least at face value).

Wonder if WeChat is next. That would be fairly effective in prevent overseas Chinese from communicating with the mainland and a lot of mom and pop businesses that operate through Wechat like the students who buy products for people back in China and advertise and transfer money using WeChat.

We'll be back to buying calling cards and dialing telephones, but I guess this is the era of decoupling one way or the other.

Maybe people will have to invent some kind of transformer software, like you plug a western chat app on one side and it passes messages through a third party relay to a chinese messaging app.

The point isn't to stop Chinese people from phoning home so a lot of that would be silly. Social media platforms that go mainstream are incredible propaganda and normalization tools, especially when their key demographic is a nation's youth. No one cares about WeChat because it's not nearly as influential in America and probably never will be.

Which isn't exactly reassuring or clarifying of any brightline, so of course this question continues to be in the air — unresolved. Will a stable framework of technological trade emerge between east and west besides "consult your legal oracles"?

It's worth noting the reason axing WeChat would be effective is that every other widely used communication app on this planet is already blocked by China.

every other popular app, you can still use apps which are flying under radar, which you must find by yourself unless you want to use illegal VPN

> Shows how far the balance of power has shifted in the last 20 years back when the Chinese government was banning western products to prevent "spiritual pollution" and "western influence".

Yes, now it's the US doing desperate acts of authoritarianism out of weakness.

Have you considered a Chinese App on 10's of millions of phones across the US and the security implications? I would think an adversary like China could very well take advantage of that.

I see this line of reasoning often, and frankly, I don’t understand it at all.

TikTok poses exactly the same risk as any other app on the App/Play stores. They go through exactly the same static code review and signing process - conducted by two American companies. Any security risk can be addressed at that point in the pipeline.

Assuming the concern is about “data security” (vs OS level security), I see literally zero difference between a state actor having access to my data, and a third party advertiser. If it’s insecure, it’s insecure - it doesn’t matter who the potential attacker is.

This is a horrible, horrible decision that has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with a horrible president desperately clawing for anything he can to get re-elected.

Right? That's what so unbelievable about this whole argument! Conceivably this is a tech forum where everyone posting should at least be familiar with that. Tiktok doesn't have any secret hacking rights to your system!

> TikTok poses exactly the same risk as any other app on the App/Play stores.

No, it does not. See the research here [1]. TikTok is a data collection engine disguised as a social media tool.

[1] https://penetrum.com/research

That was too ambiguous on my part - to clarify, I meant TikTok has exactly the same potential for risk.

TikTok isn’t doing anything that Facebook and Twitter are doing, or may do in future.

If there’s a technical security risk that we should be worried about, then I am equally worried about every single other non-Chinese company exploiting it.

If this were nation-agnostic, generic data protection laws, no one would bat an eyelid. Couching in terms of hand-wavy national security is just so implausible and blatantly self serving.

Good point. By the same reasoning, China should of course ban American apps.

Edit: As they have done. (So don't complain about unfair market access, as they clearly have good reasons. Right?)

China already did that a long time ago.

Don't they already?

> Maybe people will have to invent some kind of transformer software, like you plug a western chat app on one side and it passes messages through a third party relay to a chinese messaging app.

That's what XMPP and matrix is. Self host your own Chinese instance to communicate with people there.

I think overseas Chinese have bigger problems to worry about than Wechat getting banned. Based on the trajectory the world is heading in, we might be seeing Pacific War 2.0 and internment camps in a few decades.

Could be, but we will all be old men by then, and given our profession, probably have a sizable chunk of change in the bank. Those that are vulnerable will be able to vote with their feet and enjoy comfortable retirement in South American or something.

It's the next generation that will truly suffer, because they will belong to neither country and be looked at as potential fifth columns by both.

>we might be seeing Pacific War 2.0 in a few decades

An American-Chinese Pacific War is a projection of American insecurity.

In the long run, without its 19th and 20th century grievances, the Chinese do not care about America. Full stop.

One day the Chinese GDP per capita (currently 8,000 USD) will reach the Taiwanese GDP per capita (about 25,000 USD), the Chinese GDP will triple and nothing America does will ever be interesting to the Chinese again. Except for a Pacific War, which brings no benefit to the Chinese, outside of a few small satrapies.

If we Americans recognize the Chinese tendency is towards isolationism, a tendency with historic precedents, there will be no armed conflicts down the line.

After PRC invades Taiwan. Has a short victorious war vs India, occupies Senkakus. Makes Philippines into vassal state etc.

Any pacific war will be a coalition of India, Japan, US vs PRC war most likely. They really really should stop murdering Indian soldiers, testing Japanese air defense daily, ram everyone’s ship whenever they feel like etc. But they can not stop themselves, because regime is based on nationalistic aggression and “payback” (wtf they are paying India for I do not know)

Ah...calling cards, purchased a lot 15 years ago, and I had to use them ASAP, or their value depreciated quickly.

> or their value depreciated quickly.or thor their value depreciated quickly.eir value depreciated quickly.

Somewhat OT, but nothing has changed there. Phone plans minutes also become useless after a while.

No Westerners actually use Wechat.

TikTok is getting mainstream in US.

That is the difference

Anyone with relatives in china would. That includes westerners.

I use WeChat to keep in touch with Chinese friends. It takes up 1GB of space, which is more than any other app on my phone - wish could delete it but don't want to lose these contacts.

For what it’s worth, I’m a westerner and have used WeChat.... to order sketchy counterfeit stuff direct from China!

Look, this isn’t ideological. This is about Trump being butt hurt. I wish I could put a more nuanced spin on it, but that’s all to this story. TikTok has been a big platform for his critics and he is in a perpetual fight with China. That’s how we ended up here. WeChat is not on his radar and makes no difference to him. It won’t get banned. To be fair, I have a feeling TikTok will simply sue and win since this is blatantly unlawful, but I guess we will see.

What do you base your reasoning that this is just Trump being butthurt on? Because I have a strong suspicion that even though you don’t think the TikTok ban is ideological, your reasoning for that on the other hand is ideological.

The fact that Trump has done literally nothing but the things that benefit him personally his entire presidency? The fact that this is conveniently happening the week the US has posted record shatteringly low economic numbers and every time the stock market or the economy isn’t doing well he does something to distract the media and the public? The fact that we managed to elect a grifter? The fact that the man can’t read anything but his own name, let alone understand nuances of technology or foreign policy? You would have to be blind not to see through his intent. Or willfully supporting that racist as if in a death cult with him.

No banning TikTok isn’t ideological in this case: it’s one of dozens of Chinese apps. No other app is under fire. Yes I am ideological about Trump: I am against corruption and he is bar none the most corrupt president the US has ever had and hopefully will ever have.

Edit: just noticed your username. Dude, not cool.

In your first paragraph, you're supporting your baseless accusation with even more baseless accusations (all speaking in absolutes, and posited as facts! And some of them are so comical I'm not sure how you can seriously make such claims - it's funny you should mention cults, do you realize how you yourself sound?)

In your second paragraph, you're missing that no other Chinese app has 100 million American users. So yeah, no other app is under fire, but no other app matters nearly as much.

As to my username, for some reason I'm not surprised that it's too politically incorrect for you.

You keep using the word facts. It doesn’t seem like you know what it means.

As to your username, it’s not a PC issue. It’s just juvenile to the point where combined with your overall ignorance means there is no reason to take anything you say seriously. I hope some day you grow up.

No. I’ve said facts once. And dismissing my points based on my username is like the lowest of ad hominems. Rather makes you the juvenile one, even if I came up with this username at like 17.

This is a terrible development and precedent. Whatever you think of the CCP and the Chinese approach to censorship and tech, building our own 'Great Firewall' and banning foreign apps/services we don't like is not the answer. It just legitimises the Chinese approach and sends us further down the road to a fragmented rather than open internet.

I think it's reasonable to do for national security purposes, just like I think it's reasonable to disentangle U.S. industries from Chinese companies that pose national security threats and steal trade secrets.

So as a matter of principle, at least, I'm fine with it. I can't say I feel great about the wisdom of banning Tiktok in particular, but I won't let that confuse me into disagreeing with the underlying principle.

> I think it's reasonable to do for national security purposes

Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument? Not commenting on the validity of your position specifically, but your reasoning for it seems like it could be applied to just about anything regardless of how well it fits into the idea of a free and open democracy

> Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument?

Yes. We should be careful about it. That’s why I’m against secret courts. But this action us happening in the open, and ByteDance will have a chance to challenge it in court. (Something no American company could do in China.)

Just because something can be abused doesn’t mean it is always abusive.

>Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument?

Oh, definitely. I think those excesses which have been justified under the pretense of national security have been quite terrible, and I think that they are bad for reasons particular to those cases and arguments.

I don't take it to mean we should not have a concept of national security, or that we are so helpless that we can't meaningfully engage in case by case analysis of what to do in specific situations. It could be applied to anything if one isn't willing to distinguish between different cases based on their merits.

Also "national security purposes" is exactly what the Chinese government said when they banned Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Agree. I don't use or like tiktok but it's sad to see the internet walls setting in. Inevitable perhaps, but sad nonetheless

I don't think this will be a "Great Firewall".

The app will be banned from the stores, advanced users could still install the app by getting the APK.

not on ios. also, i'm afraid banning in the US here means actually banning it worldwide. or that will be the next step. it would be easy to force apple to just pull it from the app store. and no, people won't just install it from the apk. maybe 1% know how to do that, so it'll be a ghost town anyway

That is a risk of a walled garden like iOS.

There's always the web. Good luck banning a website.

In France they use lying DNS.

Most of the users have their default DNS set up: the ISP ones, and the french ISP dns' must comply to the law.

If you want to access SciHub for exemple, you need to change your DNS config to something else.

> change your DNS config to something else


Oh yes, but most of the people doesn't know, so it's effective.

At some level, that's also how the "Great Firewall" works. Avoiding it is inconvenient enough that most users don't even know how to do it.

It's far more hard, and dangerous to avoid it.

You can still sideload on iOS with cydia impactor. It's a bigger hassle though, because you need to resign every 7 days.

It's reciprocity. China built a great firewall, and now countries are just merely putting their own locks to the gates to prevent the China from having free access to their own markets while refusing to provide the same.

If it's reciprocity, then perhaps the government should state so, lest people think the US is becoming China.

Unless there's a third path, there really is no choice but to act in kind.

The third path is to not ban anything.

I think that's what this is really about. Trump and the various neocons filling his cabinet have decided to try and do to TikTok what China has done to many US companies through its onerous censorship requirements and preferential treatment of domestic technology companies. This is a case of blatant tit-for-tat. What this boils down to is conservatives in the executive branch not wanting Chinese technology companies to be able to do business in the US. There is an argument that this is justified given the protectionism China has demonstrated towards its own tech sector. Ultimately though this escalation is probably bad for Chinese-US relations and the Internet as a whole.

It's possible for this to completely backfire though. Suppose Microsoft pays tens of billions to ByteDance to acquire TikTok's US operations and then the app tanks in popularity or fails to reach profitability. This seems especially possible given how new TikTok is and the faddish rise and fall of many other video-based platforms (Vine, HQTrivia, Pariscope, etc.)

Open internet is dead. It really sucks, I also had big dreams about it but it done for.

Twitter, FB, Alphabet excercise absolute control over censoring people they do not like(who are most likely wrong but that is not the point). Saw what happened with those docs video that Trump retweeted?

Open internet is long gone.

Sorry, you're conflating two entirely different things. An individual platform or service choosing to moderate content (which basically every website / app involving UGC does in one form or another) is in no way the same as censorship by the state.

Not even getting into the CCP ties, it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China, while Chinese ones have been able to compete Worldwide.

In a way this gives Chinese apps an immediate advantage (as some are indirectly calling out in this comment section). If you want to reach out to someone in China, you have to use a Chinese company's app. Since social media is mostly a winner take all (or at least has a major snowball affect), this helps the Chinese social media company's grow even bigger. Now you already have one social media app for contacting people in China installed, why not use that app for contacting others?

I agree it's unfair, but when you defend something for moral reasons or claim to have a moral high ground, you should stick with it even if it's unfair, right?

The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

This gets right to the heart of the paradox of tolerance. When your country is tolerant of other countries' companies operating locally, but they aren't tolerant of the same, then you're going to eventually be overrun. You cannot defeat the intolerant through blanket tolerance; consequences and retaliation are necessary. To make it even simpler, tit-for-tat is a good strategy for iterated prisoner's dilemma; always cooperate isn't.


I don't think this is what people are talking about when they mention the Paradox of Tolerance....

Hah! Why doesn't the US ban the Nazi party or the KKK if it really cares about the Paradox of tolerance?

I think parent’s point is that it doesn’t (but it should if it wants to survive)

Because neither are numerous enough so as to constitute a legitimate threat.

If we started seeing local governments having openly KKK or neo-Nazi majorities, the freedom of speech balance would substantially alter.

First amendment rights in the US are typically circumscribed only via a requirement to show actual, existential harm.

The problem is that historically this has been the case only when it was essentially too late.

Death by a thousand cuts:


That feels like fuzzy, post-hoc rationalization.

What about when we consider the opposite? How many insignificant-in-the-moment-seeming changes never effect any sort of larger change?

We fought a war against the Nazis, with millions dead, to end fascism. We'd (hopefully) do it again if it were necessary.

It's really off the mark to criticize the US for not having done enough against Nazis! Forget banning, we invaded and killed those fuckers.

Hey man, I don't like Trump either.

But we're nowhere close to the Nazi party in the US.

See also: Red Scare, 1950s, court cases related to.

> Why doesn't the US ban the Nazi party or the KKK if it really cares about the Paradox of tolerance?

Ideas versus actions and objects.

This is less so because they ban anything that isn't controlled by the authoritarian and antidemocratic regime. This ban is against something that's controlled by it.

Bans per se aren't antidemocratic, we already have plenty of banned stuff. The only thing that can be antidemocratic is their purpose.

> This is less so because they ban anything that isn't controlled by the authoritarian and antidemocratic regime.

Really? So why are there Apple stores in China?

It seems like a rationalization to always see ourselves as the "good guys" no matter what. Every empire ever did.

Playing devil's advocate, I can see the Chinese rationalizing their bans as defending their sovereignty against Western dominance since we have a long history of bullying China and other nations that don't toe the line.

My point being, there's rationalizations you can make from their side too, which doesn't make their behavior correct.

Just because you can find some kind of a rationale for banning TikTok doesn't mean it's not hypocritical, especially while we often like to claim to hold higher moral values.

> why are there Apple stores in China?

It's a known fact that Apple cooperates, apparently enough to be satisfactory for the CCP.

Short personal anecdote if you don't believe they vigilantly ban anything they don't like: My mom is Chinese and Buddhist. Her tiny Buddhist organization was recently told they would have to cease operations. All they were doing was meditating and praying together in livestreams. They also had online lessons with Buddhist monks and stuff like that. It's all harmless stuff, and their page had like 5K likes.

You would think something tiny like that might fly under the radar in a country with 1.3B people.

It doesn't.

> It seems like a rationalization to always see ourselves as the "good guys" no matter what. Every empire ever did.

I'm not saying we're always the good guys no matter what. There's enough to criticise in our society. But no matter how much room for improvement we have, you cannot seriously contend that it's even a question whether democracies like ours are superior compared to totalitarian regimes like that of China. That question was answered over and over throughout recent history, and shouldn't ever have been brought to the table in the first place.

> I can see the Chinese rationalizing their bans as defending their sovereignty against Western dominance

That's not a rationalization, that's literally just what they're doing. And we're also doing the same by banning TikTok. But that's not the point, defending your sovereignty isn't inherently bad. The point is that it's only bad if bad regimes do it.

Or maybe exposing the Chinese population to to a tiny bit of critical thinking or anything not in line with CCP’s propaganda is what is feared, not necessarily bullying, don’t you think?

I am talking about how they may rationalize it, not what the actual goal is.

Take the Iraq war. The goal was to further assert ourselves in the Middle East, settle old scores, signal to our official enemies we mean business and enrich a bunch of military contravtors.

But the rationalization that I think made it possible for a lot of these people to sleep at night was things like defending the country, empowering women, bringing in democracy etc.

These are different things.

Also, as an aside, I may be wrong on this, but I think people sometimes underestimate the foothold of the CCP in mainland China and assume a coup would happen a week after YouTube was let in.

I feel this is incredibly naive; I mean if you look at how in our democratic societies narratives are regularly constructed to strengthen the status quo, often by pretending that the 2 parties actually have major principled disagreements, while nothing fundamentally changes almost no matter who gets elected, to the point where there are studies showing that the majority of policies people in the U.S. are in favor of don't get enacted.

Hong Kong is a bit different, because people there don't necessarily see themselves as having that much in common with mainland Chinese, but I don't think CCP would actually collapse if YouTube and Twitter were to be let in.

I happen to think the bans have more to do with wanting to empower local companies, (which yes are more easily controllable too), so that there's a strong internal economy that would ultimately be able to withstand sanctions etc.

> but I think people sometimes underestimate the foothold of the CCP in mainland China and assume a coup would happen a week after YouTube was let in.

The important point is not what people believe, but what the CCP itself believes.

It seems natural for all governments brought to power through revolution to overestimate and fear the power of revolution. Especially when they knowingly don't have a firm grasp on public thinking, due to continued suppression of open, free media.

I mean, the societ union collapsed remarkably quickly. At least in Romania, the collapse was partly motivated by illegal showings of western films in homes across the country which have the Romanians (whose media and travel were tightly restricted) a glimpse into the freedoms and abundance they were missing out on. I’m sure it’s not exactly the same but it gives me pause.

> I mean, the societ union collapsed remarkably quickly

I don't think comparing these two is all that helpful. The Soviet Union made its authoritarian side too visible, i.e. Prague 68 etc.

Combine this with the fact that the union wasn't really united by any sense of national identity, that is the Czechs viewed the soviets as the Russians and their own party officials as puppets to Moscow. In that sense the Soviets were foreign occupiers. This is not true for the CCP.

Another important point is that quite frankly, most people care about material well being first, political preferences second. By the time the USSR collapsed, its citizens felt like they'd be in a dire economic situation as long as the status quo continues. This is a much more powerful force than the rather vague promises of a democracy, I'd say.

The Soviets made the mistake of not allowing private business to occur basically at all, which means people had no hope of ever "making it".

In America, you have your Zuckerbergs that help keep the idea of an American Dream alive and something to look up to as being possible if one only works hard enough.

The Soviet Union didn't have that motivational force, however deceptive it is, but China does have its Jack Ma figures. Its economy is a mix of centrally planned and free trade and much more complex than the Soviet one was. It's also a bigger internal market. In other words, you could dream about potentially being a billionaire in China, you couldn't in the Soviet Union.

Also, many Chinese enjoy a relatively middle class lives that, as long as one doesn't get too political, probably don't feel that restrictive day to day.

As long as the CCP can keep the economy growing and people can maintain their middle class lifestyles, no revolution is coming.

Fair enough. My point was less that these are very good comparison points and more that video and culture are perhaps more powerful than we might initially think. I don’t think any CCP revolution is around the corner.

Yeah, the "soft power" of Hollywood is certainly significant and it is kind of genius that the U.S. realized this so early.

But it's not going to be the basis on which regimes stand or fall. Especially in China, where the cultural barrier is most likely higher in terms of "connecting", than it was in Eastern Europe.

Come on. China’s communist regime killed tens of millions of its own people within living memory. It presently commits egregious human rights abuses against its Uighur Muslim population. It prohibits its citizens from accessing media which might possibly negatively portray The Party. Banning TikTok may be a bad idea and the US certainly has its own troubled history, but this executive order isn’t “hypocrisy” and it certainly doesn’t put the US in the same moral ballpark as China.

I do not agree with the CCP, but I also don't like it when people present non-nuanced arguments that feel a bit like U.S. ra-ra propaganda copypasta.

> China’s communist regime

China's regime is many things but cannot really be described as communist much anymore, this is erasing a whole lot of history post Mao.

> China’s communist regime killed tens of millions of its own people within living memory.

Absolutely. That has not stopped us from treating regimes like Saudi Arabia as friends. The U.S. foreign policy establishment is hardly concerned about human rights.

Of course these are horrible, but I don't believe for a second that the TikTok ban has anything to do with human rights.

I’m not claiming that the ban is related to human rights, but rather that the US and China aren’t in the same moral ballpark. Banning TikTok isn’t equivalent to education camps, forced organ harvesting, sterilization, etc of ethnic minorities.

> that the US and China aren’t in the same moral ballpark.

I am not saying that it's necessarily the same, but is probably a lot closer than one would hope.

U.S. prison populations are basically forced labor, killing millions of civilians, not its own citizens but still, within living memory is also a thing, millions are without health insurance during a pandemic and still no universal healthcare in sight, police brutality, treatment of migrants, coups in foreign countries, school shootings, drone strikes with over 90% civilian causalities, holding people without trial at CIA black sites and GB etc.

Then you have the crimes that weren't committed directly by the U.S. but by its ales with U.S. encouragement and sale of arms, like what the Saudis are doing in Yemen right now, or the indirect funding of extremist elements in places like Syria via the likes of Qatar.

One area where the U.S. is far worse is overthrowing democratically elected leaders of sovereign countries that weren't sufficiently subservient to American corporate interests. It's basically the government doing the bidding of private interests, which is the very definition of fascism.

Again, I don't think they're exactly the same, but not as far apart as you'd think. The one major difference is the U.S. treats foreigns like trash, while China likes to keep it more domestic on that front.

I don’t think US has killed millions of civilians in living memory. Further, I think there’s a vast moral difference between civilians dying over the course of war (especially when enemy combatants deliberately hide among civilians and the difficulty of perfectly controlling an enormous army of soldiers) and waging an ideological campaign on one’s own citizens. Dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was awful, but I can appreciate that it brought a swift end to the war at very least—I see no such advantage to Mao’s cultural revolution.

School shootings and dearth of health insurance don’t remotely make up the moral gap between the US and China. As awful as those things are, they are but a drop in the bucket.

Further still, many of the other things you posit as uniquely American such as coups in foreign countries l, police brutality, dearth of healthcare, etc are not only present in China, but exist to a much more severe degree. The US has police brutality (lack of proper regulation of its police forces), China’s police will disappear people for political speech (actual institutional oppression).

I agree that the US is imperfect, but your attempts at drawing parallels between Chinese offenses and American offenses seems highly disingenuous. You seem to be flagrantly ignoring the different contexts when convenient (e.g., the difference between “civilians killed during war” and “killing one’s own civilians en masse as part of a political purge”) and listing offenses that are more egregious in China as uniquely American. I don’t really want to continue this conversation if you aren’t here in good faith.

As I said, I don't view them as morally equivalent, just not as far apart as I'd like them to be and people who experienced i.e. [1] probably view the U.S. as much worse, if you take the Korean War, Vietnam, Latin America, The Middle East, that's millions of civilians killed within living memory.

2003 Iraq alone is ~200,000, (up to 1mil per some), and that's discounting the first Gulf War or the sanctions following it that killed overwhelmingly civilians.

The difference between you and me is that I don't see killing foreign civilians as somehow less horrible than domestic ones.

When you say it's different during the "course of a war", worth noting that in many places no formal war was ever declared. In places like Pakistan, the drone warfare for example is more of a shadow war than anything.

As for people dying due to lack of healthcare and you not counting it, if we're going to attribute the evils of CCP to "communism", why discount deaths attributable to "capitalism" so easily?

My ideology disagrees strongly with the CCP, but I try to be as objective as possible when evaluating any actor, especially one that is subject to wast amounts of U.S. propaganda and is hard to ever get a more nuanced picture of.

Another issue is that the U.S. likes to present itself as a moral leader on the world stage, so it should be held to higher standards.

I am not even going into the issue of financial sanctions, where China has nowhere the amount of power the U.S. has. And the American government is willing to use that power to block shipments of food and medicine to countries it does not like, even during an unprecedented global pandemic.

I appreciate this is not discussed regularly on evening news, unlike China is, but it is very much real, this is why when you poll people from around the world, the U.S. usually comes #1 as a threat to world peace[2].

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d%27%C3%A...

2 - https://www.axios.com/the-biggest-global-threats-us-russia-c...

P.S. I don't say this to try and paint the West negatively. I say this because I want us to actually be as morally correct as we'd claim we are instead of just diluting ourselves into thinking we are soo much better already.

In other words, I'd really like the propaganda to actually match the reality.

> As for people dying due to lack of healthcare and you not counting it, if we're going to attribute the evils of CCP to "communism", why discount deaths attributable to "capitalism" so easily?

Because the deaths aren’t attributable to capitalism. Capitalism has increased longevity all over the world, including in China. In China, it not only made medical advancements available to the Chinese, but China’s recent prosperity (and the consequent improvements in health outcomes) is directly attributable to its slide toward capitalism. By contrast, the policies of mass murder and starvation during the “Great Leap Forward” were a massive regression in Chinese outcomes. Of course, all of this misses the point that even if the outcomes were exactly the same in both countries, a bad outcome due to malice is still morally worse than the same outcome due to incompetence. Failing to provide top notch healthcare to a country’s citizens is a much less grave offense than outright murdering millions of citizens to protect or extend one’s political power. America’s postwar faults aren’t comparable to those of China’s, and while I understand and appreciate your goal of trying to draw attention to America’s own faults, trying to make the comparison with China has the opposite effect. The US is already incomparably better than China, but we shouldn’t settle is the argument you ought to be making, IMO.

> Failing to provide top notch healthcare to a country’s citizens is a much less grave offense than outright murdering millions of citizens to protect or extend one’s political power.

It's fair to say it's not as bad as doing it for political power, but it's worth noting that in the U.S. aprox. 45000 people a year die due to lack of adequate healthcare. Over the past 4-6 decades, it indeed ads up to millions dead.

This state of things is directly attributable to law makers being lobbied by corporate interests. Practically every other developed nation has some form of universal healthcare. We can add a large number of those that died from the current pandemic, since quite visibly the countries with universal healthcare did much better.

Your argument essentially seems to be that it's way better for private interests to influence public policy in a negative way than having the state enacting terrible policies by itself.

I agree that it makes it more distributed, but still terrible. And yes, it is capitalism. You cannot just take the good parts and disregard the bad.

> I understand and appreciate your goal of trying to draw attention to America’s own faults, trying to make the comparison with China has the opposite effect. The US is already incomparably better than China.

This is my main issue with your argument. Sure, China is still worse, I acknowledge that, my argument is that the U.S. is not as much better as many, including you, probably think.

You have a much more direct impact on the U.S. and making it better than you have on China. Diluting yourself into thinking the U.S. is already essentially "the good guys" prevents you from having the will to actively improve it and over time leads to the fact of it being not as far from China as you'd like.

The world already thinks of America as the bigger threat to world peace, you can keep telling yourself what you want, but the rest of the world has a much less rosy picture of the U.S. than you'd think and the best way to keep China from "taking over" is not to ban TikTok but to work hard to improve that image.

> You have a much more direct impact on the U.S. and making it better than you have on China. Diluting yourself into thinking the U.S. is already essentially "the good guys" prevents you from having the will to actively improve it and over time leads to the fact of it being not as far from China as you'd like.

You’re mistaken, I have little difficulty in acknowledging America’s faults and focusing on improving them. I can simultaneously acknowledge that the US has considerable room for improvement without needing to pretend like our deficiencies are comparable to Chinese deficiencies, and indeed if one’s goal is to encourage Americans to improve, why drag in a China comparison at all? I don’t think Americans need to be diluted into thinking that we are only a little better than China in order to improve; in fact, I don’t think our motivation for improvement should be predicated on a China comparison at all. I think these kinds of nonsense comparisons are an impediment to improvement.

> You’re mistaken, I have little difficulty in acknowledging America’s faults and focusing on improving them.

You haven't acknowledged a single one so far. You simply brush them as "I don't think the U.S. has killed millions of civilians within living memory" (it has), or the lack of healthcare is somehow not a direct consequence of capitalism in a sector that shouldn't be for profit (it is).

Everyone can say they can acknowledge faults, without actually acknowledging any.

> I can simultaneously acknowledge that the US has considerable room for improvement without needing to pretend like our deficiencies are comparable to Chinese deficiencies.

Again, I am not making the argument it is comparable, just that it's probably closer than people like you like to tell themselves it is.

> why drag in a China comparison at all?

Because this is a topic about America closing its markets to a Chinese company maybe?

The U.S. waged many imperialist wars in order to force open markets in various countries around the world to its exports. So it is indeed very ironic that now this aggressive proponent of "free market" is closing their own.

There are also disturbing points of comparison considering the U.S. is a democracy, like its slave prison labor for example.

I am coming at this as an European with an outside perspective. My life is far more directly impacted by the shit America does than China. And the U.S. does a lot of shit in terms of its foreign policy. It seems to me like your view of how the U.S. is perceived is colored by how American media says the world perceives America, rather than the reality.

Yes, the ideal of America is great, but the reality is far from the ideal and just looking at its handling of the current pandemic does not paint a pretty picture.

So agree to disagree, overall still better, sure, just not by as much as Americans seem to think, especially if you consider that the current U.S. "regime" is a lot older than China's current system and had a lot longer to stabilize, get confident and as a result a lot more peaceful.

If we were to include its entire history, including the history of slavery, it would indeed be the much worse party.

As I said, not a fan of the CCP and think it has fascistic tendencies, but the tales America likes to tell itself of how moral it is are honestly a bit delusional.

I don't think this discussion is going any further.

You keep misrepresenting me. I have acknowledged America’s faults, including the absence of universal healthcare. This isn’t meaningfully “a consequence of capitalism” as indeed many European countries with their public sector healthcare have capitalist economies. It’s really too bad that you insist on misrepresenting me and making disingenuous comparisons, because I think this conversation could have been interesting and mutually enlightening. Oh well, you are right that this conversation won’t be going further.

> have acknowledged America’s faults, including the absence of universal healthcare. This isn’t meaningfully “a consequence of capitalism”

It seems pretty clear to me that it is. Specifically lobbying and campaign donations by the for profit health insurance industry is a direct consequence of there being a for profit, capitalistic motive within that sector. These capitalist incentives are directly lobbying against universal healthcare.

And no, I do not blame all of capitalism for this, Nintendo is not responsible for the lack of universal healthcare in the U.S., just in case this really needs to be said.

> as indeed many European countries with their public sector healthcare have capitalist economies.

They tend to have mixed economies with a strong regulatory system and a social safety net.

I know in the U.S. the success of any public service gets overlooked, its failings get attributed to socialism and capitalism's failings get overlooked, so in the end capitalism wins.

In the EU, we know you can mix the two. You don't have to pick capitalism or socialism, they can be mixed and matched as it makes sense, which indeed seems to be the best approach.

Not every aspect of capitalism is great and not every aspect of socialism is terrible. This seems to be forgotten a lot in American discourse and everything is very black and white to you, it seems.

> China’s communist regime

Fascist more than communist: it's military-heavy, nationalist, authoritarian and corporatist but with notionally private enterprise rather than simply overt government industries, all of which are typical of fascism (a few overlap with features of Leninst-style Communism, but neither nationalism nor, particularly, private-but-corporatist industry fit that model.)

It's not particularly aggressively expansionist, so it's not quite classic Fascism.

that sounds like a little bit of all

The US ostensibly isn’t banning TikTok to prevent its population from being exposed to foreign criticism, ideas, etc which might reflect badly on The Party. We know this because the US permits lots and lots of foreign media, applications, and websites while China restricts far, far more.

None of this is to say that I think the executive action is a good idea, but there is a middle ground between “a bad idea” and “literally the same as the CCP”.

I defend free trade/market not for moral reasons but for efficiency reasons. But when something as big as China violates it, the efficiency breaks, and there is no point in sticking to it for moral reasons.

What makes you think so?

The classic arguments for eg free trade suggest that even if the other countries decide to sink stones in their harbours, you still benefit from unilateral free trade.

(And that's also why free trade agreements are a bit silly from an economic point of view.)

An effective method of dealing with strangers/new people is mirroring. You give a smiley face on first meeting, then mirror their response: smiley or frowny face.

Also, countries aren't people and can't have friends. Countries have allies and opponents. This colors every interaction.

The world isn’t black and white. Just different shades of grey. Some darker than others. You will find inconsistencies everywhere.

The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

I’ve never heard of it described that way. I’ve heard it called “anticompetitive” or “protectionist”.

I mean, the US bans Kinder Surprise eggs, but I wouldn’t call that “authoritarian”.

> when you defend something for moral reasons or claim to have a moral high ground

It was never a reason of moral. There are all sorts of gates like that in many us industries which favor us compagnies

In principle I believe in unilateral free trade, but idealism must be tempered against pragmatism in the practical sense.

In the literal sense for a TikTok ban to be democratic it only has to be voted on. We can call it 'democratic' if a democratically elected politician can legally prohibit the app.

No freedom to the enemies of freedom.

China is openly show everyone that they'll censor and force state-backed monopolies in every area they have control over. There is nothing wrong regarding morals if means help to stop totalitarian system from spreading.

We're allowed to take a little more of the broader context into account - China is banning things because ideas might be spread that they don't like. People might spread fake news stories, like a genocide in Xianjiang.

The US will read all your messages; but you can say what you like in them. The ban isn't for authoritarian reasons; it is a fairly pure economic/geopolitical play. You can say whatever crazy stuff you like as far as the government is concerned.

Until you can't.

The modern form of power stemming from controlling a social media platform doesn't lie in completely blocking out inconvenient information (old-fashioned censoring) or spreading that one official truth (Volksempfänger-age propaganda), it's the power of subtly augmenting some groups of voices while giving others less exposure. It's mostly a destructive power because the most reliable way to use it is to blow up harmless disagreements into crippling internal conflicts - and all without anyone noticing that they are being played.

The present-day equivalent to the train that carried Lenin from Zürich to Petrograd would be a little tweak in a social feed visibility algorithm in some corporate codebase.

i don’t think there was any moral high ground there. it was just blind belief in “free trade” and globalism. but if only one side is engaging in free trade it’s just called being swindled

> The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

Policy A: "Any social media platform that refuses to censor opinions the government doesn't like is banned"

Policy B: "Foreign social media platforms are only allowed to operate in our country if our own social media platforms are allowed to operate on the same terms in theirs"

Can you see why Policy A is antidemocratic but Policy B isn't?

One reason why is that Policy B is viewpoint-neutral – the ban has nothing directly to do with what viewpoints the social media platform allows or disallows, it is simply demanding regulatory reciprocity ("We won't ban yours if you don't ban ours"). Whereas, in Policy A, the ban is part of the government trying to control which opinions are allowed to be expressed, which is anti-democratic.

(I haven't heard a clear explanation from the Trump administration of what their reasons for banning TikTok are. It is possible those reasons include Policy B, it is possible those reasons are completely unrelated.)

I won't torture your POWs if you don't torture ours.

I won't nationalize your assets in my country if you don't nationalize my assets in your country.

I will ban your books if you ban mine.

"I will x if you will also x" makes you reactionary and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf.

"I will nuke you if you nuke us" is what's been keeping most of the planet at peace since 1945.

> and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf

Relinquishing control is a very effective negotiation tactic. If you can credibly lose agency in a given situation - precommit yourself to a course of action - this means the other party has all the control and all the responsibility. If, given your pre-committed response, one choice is bad for your opponent, they're essentially forced by you to take another one.

Thomas Schelling wrote a whole book ("The Strategy of Conflict") about such scenarios.

A toy example (I think it's even from the book): imagine we're both in cars, driving towards each other and playing chicken. Whoever veers off to avoid collision first loses. If you want to win for sure, all you have to do is to rip out your steering wheel and throw it out of the window - if I see that, my choices are suddenly reduced to "lose the game, or we both die".

A real example is automated retaliatory strike systems that both sides of the Cold War worked on - strenghtening deterrence by ensuring a retaliatory strike will happen even if humans in charge change their minds.

“‘I will x if you will also x’ makes you reactionary and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf.”

This is true to an extent, but I find it unpersuasive. Because it’s basically my main negotiating and parenting technique. I don’t bluff well or frequently. I prefer to lay out the options ahead of time (because I’ve already thought them through) so I can let the other party make an informed decision.

“I will buy this widget for $X. Anything more than that and I will use your competitor / build it in-house.”

“If you clean your room, we’ll get ice cream. Otherwise, no video games today.”

“If you drop a nuclear bomb we will drop our nuclear bombs.”

The catch is that you have to mean it. Which is why I don’t see any real value in bluffing in long-term relationships. We’ve all seen those parents who tell their kids “If you don’t stop doing X right now then Y” and everyone knows (especially the kid) that there will be no follow through.

But predetermining your response doesn’t give away your agency. It’s simply stating in advance how you will respond to others agency in an effort to let them make an informed decision.

It is standard behaviour in international trade though. “If you ban our products from your country, we’ll ban your products from ours”.

Suppose hypothetically, that the EU banned imports of Australian wine, why would it be “reactionary” for Australia to respond in kind by banning imports of EU wine?

It would definitely be reactionary, I think the real question is why would that be a bad thing?

There is nothing positive coming from an aggressive situation anyway, but I’d wager the main issue is the reacting party is always getting hurt more than the other one.

EU would ban Aussie wine only if the benefits overweights straight reciprocation.

So Australia stating it will ban EU wines as a reaction just let’s the EU validate it’s worth it. If it’s not, no ban is set and nobody gets hurt. If it is, both bans are set but the EU comes out better if their calculations are right.

Just because it's reactionary doesn't mean its not effective.

Then China will always win a game of chicken and our words mean less than nothing.

Context is important. When someone keeps playing dirty and you find yourself losing to them because of that, sometimes it's important to show that you can play dirty too.

I agree that this has tones of adjusting your moves to match those of your adversary.

I just think that the losing side, when adopting similar moves, is not playing dirty per se. It's just leveling the field. You can only play foul if both players share, at least superficially, a similar moral framework.

That is actually fair enough.

The Chinese internet censorship isn't only censorship, it is also protectionism under disguise.

There is no reason to offer market access to the Chinese companies when China refuses to reciprocitate

You could always that American companies expansion abroad could be considered imperialism.

Let's just stop beating war drums.

Yes, no war drum needed, just be bilateral, they ban our shit, we ban there shit. They open their market, we open our market. Easy.

Just do unilateral free trade. Why would you restrict what your customers (ie citizens) can do, just because some despotic regime somewhere abuses their citizens?

Why would you restrict what your customers (ie citizens) can do, just because some despotic regime somewhere abuses their citizens?

One reason Chinese products are cheaper is that they largely ignore environmental concerns. So by allowing the trade all we do is put our own, well-regulated factories out of business, whilst increasing the net pollution in the world, and instead of quality products that last we get junk destined for landfill, thus perpetuating the cycle. So there are very, very good reasons to look at the big picture here.

And that's before you even get into the slave labour...

> So by allowing the trade all we do is put our own, well-regulated factories out of business

Do you have any evidence for that? I doubt it.

> and instead of quality products that last we get junk destined for landfill, [...]

That seems like a decision for customers to make? If customers prefer cheaper products, who are we to judge?

> And that's before you even get into the slave labour...

I don't think that's a big economic factor. However, insofar as it is occurring, it is bad. I would suggest opening immigration more to give people around the world an alternative.

> Do you have any evidence for that? I doubt it.

Last few decades are pretty much entirely made of evidence for that - private owners will, given insufficient barriers preventing it - move their manufacturing to the places with low labor costs. It's why almost everything you or I own has a label on it that says "made in China", and not "made in the USA".

> That seems like a decision for customers to make? If customers prefer cheaper products, who are we to judge?

Naively, yes. In pratcite, this is equivalent to letting a 3 year old choose whether they'll get chocolate or broccoli for dinner. Customers almost universally prefer cheaper products above almost anything else - including economy, environment, and their own safety. Which is why a good chunk of business-related laws in every country exists solely to remove options from which customers can choose.

The real output of the manufacturing sector in the US looks pretty robust. See https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/OUTMS

You are right that Chinese manufacturing has grown a lot. But what's the evidence that this growth has anything to do with a hypothetical decline of the US? More than a century ago the US and German industrial output growing didn't diminish British output, either.

> Naively, yes. In pratcite, this is equivalent to letting a 3 year old choose whether they'll get chocolate or broccoli for dinner. Customers almost universally prefer cheaper products above almost anything else - including economy, environment, and their own safety. Which is why a good chunk of business-related laws in every country exists solely to remove options from which customers can choose.

Perhaps we should remove their opportunity to vote. When they make the 'wrong' decision when buying that mostly hurts themselves. But at the ballot box they can hurt the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

> But at the ballot box they can hurt the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

They can and they do.

In the first instance, this is why candidates are not allowed to literally bribe the electorate, and why constitutional change is harder than simply passing a new law.

In the second, it is why countries even bother trying to interfere in other countries’ elections.

Democracy is still better than the alternatives despite the failures. Oh so many failures.

Sortition would be interesting to try. More for filling up a parliament than for selecting a president, though.

The problem is that if they had opened their market to foreign corporations, their own "shit" like you say, would never have been as great and strong (at least locally) as it is now.

If you open your market too early and don't protect your own elements, they will get crushed and you will be at the mercy of other powers.

Look at the UK, look at Germany, look at the EU... Having to please two superpowers and doing so bending backwards.

Is that the infant industry argument warmed up again?

When should China open their domestic markets to foreign competition?

Is Telsa, never mind Buick and VW not at least some evidence that they have?

I have no opinion.

That's why I asked topicseed, accepting her/his argument that emerging markets need protection, when (and if) China should open up.

But apparently topicseed hasn't updated her/his thesis since 2005.

As for Tesla in China, I dimly recall that it's in partnership. SOP for BRICS economies. Quick search... Nope. I was wrong. This 2018 article states Tesla is the first foreign company allowed to operate in China without a domestic partner. https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/10/news/companies/tesla-china-...

Now I'm almost curious if there have been others since.

No, unless and until there is a domestic chinese Luxury Car maker of note. This is the exception which proves the rule. They don't make directly competing products; so these come in. Watch what happens when they do.

This is a good point and it’s easy to get caught up in it. Because it makes perfect sense. One of the reasons the west has graduated toward freedom and a more free society is because it worked better in the long run. You can go back and look at how the government letting people do business rather than banning them lead to rises and falls of empires because rich families would simply relocate to the free countries rather than stay a place where the king might decide not to pay or perhaps even to seize their wealth. You see it to day as well to some extent, with rich Chinese and Russian oligarchs not in favour of the regime trying to move to the west.

Of course things have changed a lot since the East Indian Trading company, kings and what not. So maybe protectionism works better in a global market interconnected. Maybe the Chinese model is simply the future for us, but probably not.

Personally I hope for a more GDPR styles approach to social media in general. There is no doubt China is spying through TikTok, and that’s bad, but I don’t really want Facebook or Google to sell my information either.

One of the reasons the west has graduated toward freedom and a more free society is because it worked better in the long run

I notice your use of the past tense there; it did work well for the West but the situation in China is very different - they have been able to leapfrog to a Western level of technology without having a free and open society. So the rules are different now. The real test is now, starting at the same level, who can sustain it and who can pull away.

Did Tik Tok even explain why they were capturing and transmitting clipboard contents? (unfortunately not the only ones doing it) It's a little like inviting someone round for dinner and catching them routing through you things taking photos. They should probably be blocked and not invited around again.

I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned GDPR. Yes, it was a huge amount of hassle and a lot of work (inspiring many memes). However, it did make people realise how much of their data was being used.

GDPR's implementation was pretty poor. Like how every website is legally required to tell users they use cookies, which is pretty redundant as there are many ways to track users and cookies are just one of them. It made very little difference to likes of Google and Facebook, who know where you are, who your friends and colleagues are what you like, what you like to buy and even what you are thinking at times - now that scares me!

GDPR had a lot of potential but it has been lost in it's current form. Cookie warnings seem like something a politician would do, not something someone with any real understanding of data security. Very little has changed especially for the big players. Hell Google Chrome was recently caught collecting data when in incognito mode. A Google spokesman stated "Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device" - that doesn't make it ok to collect the information and send it to themselves. It's pretty deceptive and this is recently, long after GDPR was introduced.

PS: The comparison to the East India Company (EIC) is a good one. The CCP is very much like the EIC (ironically it was the EIC supplying the opium for the opium wars). They have their own military, have a huge amount of power politically, openingly admits to using underhand tactics and breaking laws to enforce monopolies, as they are virtually untouchable.

> it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China, while Chinese ones have been able to compete Worldwide.

It’s weird to point out this double standard but then apparently take the side of both countries banning foreign media companies.

Why give China access to our domestic market when they refuse to give us access theirs? What do you propose then?

The issue here is that it's a president arbitrarily destroying a company.

If the Congress (the actual body meant to crate laws) decides to create a reasoned, comprehensive law to level the playing field with Chinese companies, then they should do it.

What shouldn't happen is this kind of impulsive decision making that arguably abuses the emergency powers of the presidency to block an app that allows people to film themselves and post those recordings.

If you claim that this app is a national security threat then any app is.

> If you claim that this app is a national security threat then any app is.

How so? Not every app is 1. Owned and controlled by an adversarial state, 2. In the hands of every American youth, and 3. Providing opaquely generated/sorted content.

So explain how every app is an equivalent security threat.

Please explain why TikTok is "owned and controlled" by the Chinese government.

TikTok is just as much "owned and controlled" by an adversarial state as any app by US corporations is "owned and controlled" by the US government due to national security letters and the CLOUD Act.

No, it’s really not. Note that there is currently a very public tiff between American media and the American state. This would be impossible in China. That is the difference, regardless of whether you can pull pieces of law from either side that would indicate the contrary. State power is a complex thing that is not entirely encoded in legal code.

Some reading:



“Jan 25 - Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Friday stressed efforts to boost integrated media development and amplify mainstream tone in public communication so as to consolidate the common theoretical foundation for all Party members and all the people to unite and work hard.”


That would be relevant for the discussion if the stated reason for banning TikTok were specific, concrete and actually happening actions of politically-motivated censorship. However, the stated reason is "national security" due to potential access to data of American people. Which - surprise! - is exactly what the CLOUD Act provides the US government with regard to ANY app with server-side data storage operated by ANY US-based corporation.

“[CLOUD Act allows] federal law enforcement to compel U.S.-based technology companies via warrant or subpoena to provide requested data stored on servers regardless of whether the data are stored in the U.S. or on foreign soil.”

In case you missed it, I’ll emphasize the relevant point: “via warrant or subpoena

This is not “exactly,” as you say, the same provision.

And what exactly prevents the US government from creating any kind of subpoena they'd like? They don't even have to defend it anywhere, because "national security" trumps the normal judicative process. The targets of the subpoena aren't allowed to talk about, and the original owners of the data sought by the government will never even see the subpoena.

Look, if you don’t believe in the western systems of checks and balances despite the long, long track record of it performing with greater regard for human dignity than any regime without checks and balances, we’re just not going to be able to have a conversation here.

No sensible person would suggest the American system is perfect. But to suggest that an imperfect system of checks and balances is tantamount to an actual unashamed dictatorship is equally divorced from reality.

There’s nowhere for this conversation to go, so have a good weekend!

Meh. The last three and a half years have pretty clearly demonstrated that a large part of the foundation of America that we’ve always believed was held in place with ‘checks and balances’ were actually ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ that don’t mean shit if one side of the agreement decides to ignore them.

I do believe in actual checks and balances, especially of the transparent kind, just not in those dark pockets of unchecked power that have always existed in between the parts of government that do have proper c&b. Pretty much all the stuff labeled "national security" in the US are such pockets of largely unchecked power, even more so, they are deliberately engineered pockets of unchecked power that are designed to evade proper oversight - because, you know, "it's a matter of national security, just don't ask questions".

Also, I've never stated that the entire US governmental system was "tantamount" to a dictatorship - this is a straw man you're putting up there. I named very particular legislation that I indeed consider equivalent to what it is you're suggesting the Chinese government is doing. If you want to rebuke that argument - fine, I'm listening! But please stop putting up straw men just because it turns out that it's kind of hard to defend the existence of such opaque and unchecked pockets of power if your entire argument builds on the superiority of a system that is designed to balance and limit individuals' power over one that just lets those in power reign over anyone else.

Also, abbub brought up a great point here that I want to emphasize: "checks and balances" that are weak in practice and depend on those in power to "just behave" are ineffective and shouldn't be considered equal to actual, enforceable limitations. I was stunned how close a US president can get to a dictator in terms of effective powers if he just decides to stop caring about morals, political conventions and other "soft limits". This experience seems to be an argument against the concept of "let's just trust everyone to play nice" and a clear indicator for the need of actual, effective and enforceable limitations to power. Those regulations that I criticized now are the exact opposite of this.

Thing is, there are no checks and balances for this area of government activity. Otherwise why would american companies include government backdoors in their products?

> there are no checks and balances for this area of government activity

Of course there are. Congress can pass laws limiting executive actions. And the courts can constrain it.

Okay, so in theory maybe there could be checks and balances in place. In practice, however, there are instead secret court orders, subpoenas, or "national security letters".

> there are instead secret court orders, subpoenas, or "national security letters"

None of which apply to this action, which has been publicly promulgated and will be publicly enforced and challenged.

Also, secret courts and NSLs are an abomination. Subpoenas are legal demands for information.

None of which _are known to_ apply to this action. Sure. But it still doesn't change the root of the problem: the alleged security problems with Chinese products, caused by government being able to force manufacturers to do whatever their intelligence agencies require, are in fact real - but for US products, not Chinese ones.

Companies tend to fight back when it's profitable to fight back; and do their best to ignore the government otherwise. See: this week's tech CEO house hearing. I can't recall this example of the backdoors; and if you say "Clipper Chips" I'm going home.

Of course I don't mean clipper. I mean the backdoors in US telco equipment - some uncovered by Snowden, some discovered by independent researchers. If your theory were true, Chinese network equipment would be full of government backdoors, and US manufactured equipment would be free of them. In the real world, however, the reverse is true.

The US used to claim a higher moral when others blocked, filtered, or enacted bans by executive fiat. It did so with some justification.

Banning an app because you are worried about external cultural influence on your youth ends any such claim.

This is irrelevant to the question I asked.


The meaning of "arbitrary" here is that the decision is based on the whims of the White House, rather than on well-established rules that apply to everyone - regardless of how well-reasoned the authors of such a ban might think themselves.

> The definition of "arbitrarily" states: "on the basis of random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system".

Here's what OED says. (b) looks interesting, especially with the 1st amendment complications.

(Unless I'm missing something and arbitrarily is defined in US constitutional documents??)


arbitrarily, adv. (ˈɑːbɪtrərɪlɪ)[f. arbitrary + -ly 2.]

arbitrarily, adv. In an arbitrary manner, at will;

arbitrarily, adv. a. merely at will, without sufficient reason, capriciously;

arbitrarily, adv. b. unconstitutionally, despotically.

a1626: Davies Quest. Impositions 131 “This power of laying on arbitrarily new impositions.”

1656: Hobbes Six Less. Wks. 1845 VII. 394 “The point F is not to be taken arbitrarily.”

1754: Edwards Freed. Will iv. 2 (ed. 4) 279 “The meaning that they arbitrarily affix to a word.”

1769: Junius Lett. xxxv, “Their rights have been arbitrarily invaded by the present House of Commons.”

1849: Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. 126 “The Bishop of Dunkeld..was arbitrarily ejected from his see.”

1882: A. Macfarlane Consanguin. 1 “The arbitrarily chosen names of substances.”

I think the above poster probably means to say "unilaterally."

From a native Chinese’s perspective, this is scary: what’s the next thing he will ban?

- Wechat: this make a virtual “family separation”

- A purge of any app related to China (TuSimple, Zoom etc)

- Suspend F1 and H1B visa for “suspected” Chinese and make special scrutiny during immigration interviews for all Chinese applicants

- witch hunt more

Let me tell you what’s this: Chinese Exclusion Act II

What's wrong with banning WeChat?

China bans WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and a whole other bunch of apps.

Zoom should be scrutinized very heavily and potentially banned as well. Keep in mind China bans Skype.

Zoom’s founder is of Chinese origin but it entirely US based from the beginning.

No, their engineers are mostly in China.


Isn’t this what happens to Western companies and products in China?

because not giving someone access to your market is stupid, in particular if you're not a developing country because there's nothing to be gained from protectionism, other than enabling the increasingly authoritarian tnedencies of the American government against its own citizens.

Why does something need to be proposed at all, is the US threatened by zoomers doing funny dances on a smartphone app?

No, they’re threatened by two things:

1. Equipping the CCP with a sensor placed in the pockets of millions of American citizens. This is already a problem when American companies are doing it for ad targeting purposes. But to do the same and funnel the data to an increasingly militaristic near-peer adversary? It in fact makes it qualitatively, not just quantitatively, different.

2. Tiktok opaquely selects which content it shows users. Again, American social media companies do this to a lesser degree (non-chronological feeds), but they don’t tweak their algorithms at the direction of the government to opaquely modify the information environment a citizen exists in. Note that there is currently very public tension between the US establishment and these companies because yes, authoritarians love this capability and no, they don’t yet have it in the US. Tiktok has no ability to refuse CCP’s requests to, e.g. erase any references to their concentration camps or to amplify claims that Bill Gates is trying to inject microchips via the COVID vaccine.

Whether a US executive should be able to single handedly make such a decree, I really don’t know. It doesn’t seem right to me but I ought to think about it more. What is 100% obvious to anyone looking at TikTok and the CCP with clear eyes is that it is a huge threat.

There is no evidence at all that China puts the thumbs on the scale when it comes to content being served in the US, TikTok has kept US data out of China, and now is actually willing to open source key parts of its code base to auditors, which is a ridiculous double standard anyway given the disinformation campaigns on domestic platforms who are under no such obligations.

That aside, the US is a free country. Everyone can spread propaganda. I was under the impression that American citizens of voting age are able to discern information themselves and distinguish between hoax and reality.

Since when is it the task of the US government to police media companies?

I would suggest that “media company” is a westernized, capitalist, and therefore inaccurate description of what Bytedance is. It, like all other media in China, is an extension of the state.

I am not arguing whether or not the US government has the right to ban TikTok, I am explaining what the threats are. Do not conflate the two and confuse the conversation. It is absolutely possible that this is a threat and we can legally (or in compliance with our values) not do anything about it.

“All news media run by the party must work to speak for the party’s will and its propositions, and protect the party’s authority and unity,” - Xi Jinping


“ On April 9th, the day before Zuckerberg’s testimony began, Bytedance was ordered to suspend its most popular product, a news-aggregator app called Jinri Toutiao (Today’s Headlines). The next day, regulators yanked Neihan Duanzi, the company’s social-media platform, where users share jokes and videos. Last Wednesday, Zhang’s official apology appeared on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. His company had taken “the wrong path,” he wrote, and, along the way, he had “failed his users.” Perhaps it was not entirely coincidental that his words echoed a notice posted by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the country’s media regulator”


> Bytedance was ordered to suspend its most popular product, a news-aggregator app called Jinri Toutiao (Today’s Headlines). The next day, regulators yanked Neihan Duanzi, the company’s social-media platform, where users share jokes and videos.

If ByteDance really was an extension of the state, surely they wouldn't even have launched a product that violates the regulations of the state they're supposedly an extension of.

You’re missing the parent’s point, which is that they will jump when the government tells them to.

They are now as Bytedance for the message and will now do whatever they ask

If a company apologizes for violating regulations and promises to do better, it usually means they made the minimum changes necessary to signal compliance, not that they suddenly changed their ways and will always do as told from then on...

“It, like all other media in China, is an extension of the state.”

You can increasingly say the same for American companies.

Even for developing countries it's stupid. Perhaps even more so for them.

China gives Apple access to their market but the US bans AT&T from partnering with Huawei to sell consumer phones.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have been banned from operating in China. If you look at the big picture, Western companies have much less access to the Chinese domestic market than vice versa

Why restrict what American customers can do just because China restricts what Chinese customers can do?

Do you also suppose that it would be a good idea for you to hit your head repeatedly against a wall, if I start doing so?

> Do you also suppose that it would be a good idea for you to hit your head repeatedly against a wall, if I start doing so?

This is a bad analogy and proves nothing. There's no connection between two people banging their head against the wall.

However, there is a connection between one actor performing a bad action and then facing punitive action from another actor because of it. It makes them less likely to perform similar actions in the future, and could cause them to reverse the previous bad actions that are still in effect.

Whereas if you're banging your head against the wall, me doing the same does nothing to stop you. Hence why it's a meaningless analogy.

The bigger problem is that when American users use TikTok, the Chinese government gets a say in their social media exposure.

Nobody should be using TikTok voluntarily, in my opinion. There should be a PR-effort led by governments, parties or NGOs to tell people why they shouldn't use TikTok.

I don't know enough about TikTok to have an opinion on them in particular. But I do agree that it should be up to people to decide whether they want to use TikTok.

An information campaign like you suggest might be justified. Though given how politicized everything seems to be, I suspect it might backfire.

Btw, would you like to make it illegal for people to send their personal information directly via email to the CCP?

It's not unusual for some kind of transaction to be forbidden by only penalizing or hindering one side.

TikTok users don't consent to the CCP directing their user experience. In fact, TikTok will do its best to avoid letting on to anything like that. And US jurisdiction doesn't cover this company at all. That is one of the rare situations where you really want a government to step in and tell people what not to do.

Just like you would still ban a dangerous product, even though users could know the danger if they really wanted to.

Banning TikTok isn't really about personal information or even surveillance of any kind. Social media can be abused in many different ways, and much more actively.

This shouldn't be about market access but rather about the power media companies wield.

The debates around Facebook, Twitter and so on regarding political speech and misinformation is bad enough, and those companies at least don't have malicious intents and are criticized mostly for their inaction. With a company operating under Chinese law this is a whole other can of worms.

There's nothing weird about "an eye for an eye" approach. The fact that chinese media and tech companies are allowed to operate unhindered in the USA is what's really weird. Unfortunately, banning it in the USA is a bit of a pointless act imho.

If you want to use those metaphors, it's the Chinese who are poking out their own eyes, ie who are restricting what their customers can have access to.

That's a great injustice to the Chinese people. But Americans poking their own eyes out in 'retaliation' makes neither Americans nor Chinese customers better off.

> neither Americans nor Chinese customers better off.

who said anything about making customers better off? it's done to hurt the other party's profit and expansion and influence.

Well, ostensibly politics is done in the name of making citizens better off. Customers are citizens.

Of course, if you get arbitrarily cynical, you are right. But then we'd need to have a very different discussion.

But this measure isn't bring contemplated from that motive, it appears, the whole narrative is about some perceived threats to national security, which most analysts think is over hyped and only 'theoritical'.

Just as China hides market intervention and protectionism behind ideological control; the US hides economic interventionism and protectionsim behind national security.

The defence budget of the US is in large part the gov's R&D budget and national economic programme. 'National Security' is now its headline for its international economic programme.

Well, in a fantasy world that may be the case.

In the real world this is little more than just another politically motivated maneuver that will do little to undo the damage caused to the world and Western interests vis a vis China of the US withdrawing from the TPP.

The motive is teens pranked Trump's Tulsa rally, using TikTok.

I cannot believe that with over 500 bewildered comments yours is the only one to make this obvious connection. I have a difficult time forming any other conclusion than yours. I agree that an executive order would be a direct response to TikTok users trolling him at Tulsa.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. These TikTok users already won round 1 (Tulsa) and this would mean war.

Reminds me of a Taleb article I read: Most Intolerant Wins


There are people with much more “intolerant” (restrictive) diets than halal and kosher, and yet, those don’t “win.” This is an extremely simplistic explanation with, I suspect, very little predictive power.

It seems you misunderstood the article. When a minority has an intolerant stance about which the majority has no preference towards, the minority wins. For example, the majority doesn't care if all food is kosher. But, the majority would care if all food was vegan.

This point is explicitly discussed in TFA. Kind of bad faith to criticize an article so harshly that you didn't even bother to skim...

They have not crossed the "threshold of winning". RTFA, please!

Right. So the point is really “the winners win.”

> This is an extremely simplistic explanation with, I suspect, very little predictive power.

A fitting note for every idea Taleb has ever had.

Is it? In his book, Black Swan, he mentions his hedge fund, which did quite well during the peak of Covid https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/taleb-adv...

Not quite sure that COVID counts as a Black Swan event, at least according to his own definition. From Wikipedia:

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.

2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).

3. The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event's massive role in historical affairs.

From your article:

Taleb, in a March 30 interview on Bloomberg Television, said a pandemic like the coronavirus outbreak was predictable and investors who weren’t hedged paid the price with steep losses. What’s impossible to predict is the timing of such an event, he said, which is why insurance must be in place at all times.

So essentially his "big idea" is the concept of insurance? That doesn't quite qualify as intellectually significant to me.

He cleaned up in 2008.

Also not really a black swan event. Plenty of people saw the crash coming. Just not economists or regulators or real estate shills.

Lol... then it wouldn’t have happened!

Jesus what a bad article, it starts out making a sane point with, maybe some slight anti-religious hints, but quickly turns into a personal rant about how all of modern science is in the pocket of GMO-pushing agricultural companies with a personal vendetta against him.

That sums everything I've read from him. He has genuinely good and unique ideas but over time he's spent more and more time trying to dunk on his enemies. I had actual difficulty making it through some of his more recent books.

The message that would trascend from such an action is that our vision of how a society should work was no better than the one in China. The West always believed their ideals and principles around "democracy" and "freedom" were superior to those of the CCP.

Now the West also needs to ban <X> (in this case, a social media platform) to function and is no better than its rival. If anything, this would prove the CCP was always right when it applied such measures in the past.

This sets a scary -albeit interesting- precedent.

> If anything, this would prove the CCP was always right when it applied such measures in the past.

It does no such thing. China was given market access under the precise promise of the Chinese would likewise open their own markets. They did not do that. Then they explicitly started banning American companies, conducting unfair trade practices, and more. All we're seeing now is a long await readjustment to reciprocity. Your logic is bizarre. If two parties were in a Mexican stand off, and both agreed to put down their guns only for one to not actually put them down, then the other party that put their gun down can pick it back up just fine. That other party IS better than it's rival because it acted in good faith, and it was it's rival who was deceitful.

Bigger than the reciprocity problem is that TikTok is operating under Chinese law and thus its American userbase's social media exposure, or a part thereof, is controlled by the CCP.

Not good idea.

> it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China.

It is not about fairness it is just about power.

It always struck me how people in one nation can apply a single issue to defend his nation when there are many other issues that invalidate the argument about the fairness of his own nation actions.

It is unfair: unfair to the Chinese people whose access is censored.

Adding an extra wrong on top, doesn't make a right.

Be pretty funny if China says yes you should definitely ban it. We only allow Douyin in China. We would never allow Tik Tok. If you want we have some firewall technology we could sell you...

This "winner takes all" aspect of social networking seems like exactly the kind of thing that government regulation and/or clever technical design should be used to prevent, to ensure continued competition in the market.

If it stops Chinese corporations getting an advantage great. But it seems ublikely to happen while US companies have the advantage, and once they start to lose it, it will probably be too late.

I don't see a way for government regulation to restrict social media companies from gaining market dominance.

Even splitting doesn't help. You can try to split the main social network off from some other profit-generating activities, but they would probably start those up again, after some time. You can't split the social network, because then users of the smaller parts just join the bigger part again.

Currently we don't know how to do it, except encourage new companies to rise.

There are good arguments for banning or boycotting TikTok.

Lack of reciprocity is one of the weakest, I think.

Western social media that complies with Chinese laws (like LinkedIn) are allowed to operate in China.

> If you want to reach out to someone in China, you have to use a Chinese company's app

If you want to talk to someone in China, you have to use WeChat and have your entire conversation mined by the CCP. There’s no encryption and no alternative. The writing has been on the wall for years that the US will be left with no choice but to blacklist Chinese apps in the same manner.

As far as I understand it, WeChat is less useful as a means of disseminating misinformation or other social media manipulation, whereas the problem with TikTok is less about potential surveillance.

Thus it may make more sense to ban TikTok than WeChat. And always assume the CCP is listening to unencrypted communication. In fact, they are probably mining our comments in Hacker News.

That's not super relevant to this case, because TikTok itself is banned in China; Chinese users have to use Douyin, which runs the same platform but doesn't share content with TikTok.

> (...) because TikTok itself is banned in China; Chinese users have to use Douyin

Seems to me that it's not banned at all, they just release a region-specific version for a specific market.

It's banned in the relevant sense, that users of TikTok aren't getting any kind of network effect from the Chinese userbase.

Regionalizing a service is not the same as banning. It's not dependent on "the relevant sense", it's just plain outright wrong. By your measuring stick Netflix and Amazon Video and even YouTube would be banned because they split their service into separate markets, with some content not available somewhere else. At most you could argue censorship, but that's about it.

Heck, region-encoded DVDs weren't a form of ban, don't you agree?

Tiktok is the same exact service with region-specific restrictions, primarily motivated to comply with local jurisdictions. That's it.

Those bans have to do with IP rights. Regionalising of social media is effective censorship, since it's not that there are localized versions, it's that accessing outside versions and people, information and ideas in them is banned. If there was mere regionalising, they would be able to access the non localized version too, if they wished.

Then Netflix is banned in the relevant sense in my country since I cannot get the same experience an American does. Look, shit on tiktok all you want, hell I installed both tik-tok and wechat and I uninstalled them within 1 day when I noticed how Orwellian they were. I only ask to some westerners commenters to not be disingenuous, because Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and virtually any other big American company has given carte blanche to the NSA to get on their data. Also spare me the tired " this is whataboutism" argument.

According to this site, it’s actually banned in China: https://www.saporedicina.com/english/access-tiktok-china/

I’m guessing that the international tiktok hosts content that wouldn’t be allowed on China, and the CCP isn’t interested in having the workload of censoring the rest of the world’s content.

International users can still feed censorship classification systems, like with WeChat: https://citizenlab.ca/2020/05/we-chat-they-watch/

It is still owned by the same company.

>unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China

They're not.

Bing has been in China forever.

Western platforms could always compete in China if they assent to domestic censorship laws like every Chinese platform. That's "fair" considering how onerous and costly compliance is. Western platforms simply have not invested in the necessary mass human moderation until the last few years, after confronted with the same violence that forced Chinese platforms to lock down post 2009 minority riots. Hence why Facebook and Google was open to engineering Chinese compliant versions after improving their moderation infrastructure following failed revolutions, genocides, mass shootings.

The reality is TikTok operates in US under US laws like how Bing operates in China under Chinese laws. There's nothing inherently unfair. The issue is asymmetric vulnerability due to fundamentally different governance systems. US could never leverage even western platforms operating legally in China to undermine China due to Chinese content controls - see China deleting diplomatic tweets on Chinese social media. But China can potentially leverage TikTok operating legally to undermine US. But instead of transferring TikTok to US ownership, which is merely anticompetitive, Trump decides to ban via executive action which is... upright undemocratic. That said, it's totally justifiable on security basis. But just remember China-hawks in current admin have no problem becoming the thing they wish to fight. That's what Americans should fear.

Bing is a social media company?

It's effectively an information dissemination platform. The point is, any online service must comply to Chinese Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission. Facebook and Twitter were blocked - not banned, the distinction is important - when they failed to filter out requests for retaliatory killings after 2009 minority riots. This isn't controversial, you want to operate in a country, you comply to relevant laws and regulations. Unregulated tech is facing push back domestically and abroad now, the era of US tech exceptionalism is ending as countries seek silo-ed data and control over media in domestic spheres. China was prescient on this point. This is why TikTok has no problems bending backwards trying to appease US regulators, because it's use to doing so in China. That's the irony of it all, Chinese tech companies have no problem following regulations abroad, but US companies just can't seem to.

American Capitalists would much prefer to have China based ownership and control of American assets. Best of all possible worlds.

To the extent it’s “unfair” it benefits western countries.

They get the best of all worlds.

The Chinese are relegated to using whatever is available in their country whereas western citizens can use whatever is best in the world.

So yes, it’s extremely unfair on the Chinese people.

Its a good question, but there actually is a good reason: https://youtu.be/f2srfDwM2sQ?t=307

After reading many books on China I learned China values social stability over everything. In its 4,000 year history they have seen the dangers of social instability. We are a very young country and haven't seen what real chaos can look like.

(These ideas are from Henry Kissinger's on China, Destined for War by Graham T. Allison and The China Dream by Liu Mingfu)

I've never understood why people espouse China's "4000 year history". The government purged nearly all aspects of traditional Chinese society during the Cultural Revolution. If you want to be reminded of China's history, you travel to Taiwan. Even practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine tend to study overseas in Japan.

> purged nearly all aspects of traditional Chinese society

There has been multiple rounds of racial genocide in China's history, some by internal turmoil, and more by external invasion. Yet the Chinese culture survived.

It might sounds incredible, but so many people in such a huge land, have its own life strength.

If you think a political dictator can purge a nation's history tie, in 10 years, without actually killing all the people, then you are certainly underestimate Chinese people's strength and ernacity...

This is incredibly inaccurate.

You work in tech, right? Ever run this take by your Chinese coworkers? Ask them about their families' connection to Chinese tradition?

That "X thousand years of history" is a myth Chinese people believe about themselves doesn't make it true or a useful way of understanding anything.

It's... literally true, you can look up photos of turtle shells with characters etched into them on Wikipedia.

That doesn't mean they're perfect or blessed but they've definitely been there the whole time.

I'm not going to get into a debate, but Traditional Chinese characters are only really used in Hong Kong and Taiwan these days.

Plenty of mainlanders can read fanti FYI. Writing is harder as that requires active memory and practice but fanti is perfectly decipherable for a fluent mandarin speaker. And when in doubt using a dictionary is trivial. If the text is digital you can pretty much get a 1-1 mapping 99% of the time. Especially if it is putonghua (as opposed to dialect)

Obviously something as big as the introduction of jianti is quite radical and will have downsides but it's really overplayed by armchair spectators. For a fluent speaker it is at most an inconvenience - like reading chaucer or shakespeare, except the grammar is exactly the same only the spelling differs.

And the ancient characters are different still, they're all wavy and it's a lot of guesswork for people who haven't specifically studied them.

But it's clearly a continuous culture. We don't use a bunch of wacky f's in our writing anymore in America, doesn't mean we're not a continuous culture on our timeframe.

Simplified Chinese characters are just that... simplified versions of the traditional characters. In fact, many don't change at all from the traditional version to the simplified version.

It's a change, and one that history purists tend to not like, but definitely not a culture-breaking change or something that breaks links to the past. There are still a lot of ancient pictograms left in the simplified characters, a lot of connections to concepts, ideas and views from past millennia.

I'm half Basque. The Basques have been in Europe for 5,500+ years. There are plenty of loosely-defined cultures which are over 4,000 years old.

If I recall correctly, Basques also have a history of reacting poorly when people try to deny their culture exists or eradicate it.

Stonehenge is also between 4 and 5 thousand years old but it's not going to tell you anything about the mystical traditions of the people of the British Isles.

The difference between the West and China is that China has been able to maintain its civilization state and it has a continuous history. The West's history is discontinuous

I noticed that "maintaining civilizational state" is.. to be generous.. simply a state of narrative. The imperial system is definitely over, Xi wears a suit and tie and there are no legions of eunichs running the country.

Though fun fact, Mussolini was pretty big on emphasizing the whole Italy == Rome deal.

And in the US there's only maybe 300 years of serious history to cover so I recall my history class had to reach all the way back to Greece as an idealogical source of American democracy.

> China has been able to maintain its civilization state and it has a continuous history

To check the validity of this statement while neutralizing my own bias, I watched the following video [1] which maps out China’s political borders year by year from 1600 BCE to 2017. Watching at 2x speed on mute took 4 minutes and was quite illuminating.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWqVzZnwnOk "The History of China : Every Year"

This one takes 10 minutes at 2x speed and provides a global perspective. [2]

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6Wu0Q7x5D0 "The History of the World: Every Year"

There have been plenty of rises and falls of civilization in China in the intervening thousands of years. It's way reductionist to claim that this is all the same one unflagging continuous empire.

In a way, you're doing Chinese history a huge disservice by making it a lot less interesting than it actually is when you claim that it's all just one empire persisting steadily through time.

And anyway, "the west" has a continuous history going all the way back through the ancient Greeks. That's at least two and a half millennia. It's not been the same people or the same empire since then, obviously (same for China), but the continuous written history easily goes back at least that far.

I think your perspective is one of not having read any books on China, not having studied anything about China and not having been to China.

Do you have anything to contribute beyond ad hominem and argument from authority?

> China has been able to maintain its civilization state and it has a continuous history

I'm baffled by what this means. Could you compare it to the United Kingdom for me? Are you conflating written history with continuous history?

While as an island the UK means its borders have mostly been fixed, it has definitely had quite a fluid culture and language history. The romans came and left their mark. Then the Vikings and the normans. We've had a strange love hate relationship with the French forever, branding them frogs while learning French so we can seem sophisticated. So in my mind it does lack that continuity that China has:

For instance the sunzi bingfa (art of war) was written in 500BC and still is mostly understandable today.

On the other hand if I were to drop a reference from Vergil or Homer in latin/greek. I would be branded of being in cahoots with Boris Johnson and very few people would understand it.

Edit: And even that - I don't think Italians really would understand Latin texts (tho will have a better chance than brits). I think ancient greek is a little easier for modern greek speakers tho.

This is excessively cherry-picked, and I’m just going to steal a quote from Wikipedia to illustrate:

> The Chinese have different languages in different provinces, to such an extent that they cannot understand each other.... [They] also have another language which is like a universal and common language; this is the official language of the mandarins and of the court; it is among them like Latin among ourselves....

The idea that you could transplant a peasant between millennia in China or even over any significant distance, and have them remain intelligible is simply untrue. In addition, you could take an educated person in most of Europe in the last 2000 years and expect to be able to communicate with them in Latin — it’s only the last hundred years or so when this has fallen out of favour. So recently in fact that nobody raised an eyebrow about the fact I had mandatory Latin lessons from the age of ten at my school, in the 90s.

Dialects are overplayed outside of china. Most average people can speak 2-3 just as part of growing up. Learning a new dialect is considerably easier than a Spanish person learning Portuguese or the nordics learning the other languages from the region.

For starters the written language is essentially the same between the chinese dialects - so learning a new one is mostly an exercise of mapping sounds and then learning new idioms. Passing as a native speaker though will be harder as the canto/mando split highlights.

You're right - latin's influence is still amongst us. Indeed I believe it was common to teach Germans Latin in the hope it would make them have a stronger technical appreciation of German. And the UK legal system has its roots in the Roman legal system.

That said I assure you Latin the language is far more arcane than the standard Chinese. Meanwhile in China, suntzu bingfa will be learned and referenced in culture and people have statues of zhugeliang and guanyu in their homes displayed at chinese new year. I haven't met a friend yet you has an Aeneas or Caesar displayed in their house.

Maybe Hercules and Zeus as figures are more prominent examples of people we have remembered but they aren't really celebrated in that first hand nature. I don't think Brits identify with Hercules or even Boudica. But I would posit chinese people do identify with the ancient greats like kongzi.

EDIT I think the idea of identity is key. Interestingly the Chinese people in Singapore and Malaysia diverged from China ~150-200 years ago. But this sense of identity with the old chinese history has been preserved between both of them so you can't just write this off to CCP propaganda.

Perhaps culturally Chinese culture has always sought to unify/assimilate things into its monoculture whereas the history in Western europe has been a more fluid and accepting melting pot.

Dictatorships value stability above anything else. Because once you have absolute control, the only real danger to losing it is civil war. China has had tons of bloody wars just like the West.

And people have been living in Europe for thousands of years too. The "4000 year history" is a CCP thing they sell to the populace to make their dictatorship seem more legitimate. It's pretty stupid, most cultures have been around for at least 1000 years.

I'm sorry you feel offended by these ideas. I suggest you read any of the 3 books I referenced that explain this Chinese principal. The books are by Republican, Democratic and CCP authors.

Differences between civilizations can feel offensive.

Sounds like you're the one offended. Great 4000 year history of China is CCP party line. Reading neutral sources you'll find it's more nuanced than that.

There's some evidence remaining that China was once a collection of societies. Notably language. The CCP insists that all of China speaks Mandarin, but thats only the case since the cultural revolution.

Chinese writing is indeed nearly universal. But spoken language once had many dialects, and still does to an extent. These dialects are sometimes mutually unintelligible. If it wasn't for CCP party line they would be considered different languages, as part of Chinese language family. Much like many of the southern Asian languages are different languages that cluster together.

This is a typical orientalist take. Most of the world is well aware of "the dangers of social instability".

> This is a typical orientalist take.

Yes. As I mentioned these ideas are not mine but advanced by 3 books which explain the Chinese perspective. These books are bipartisan and multinational and explain this principal.

* Henry Kissinger's on China (Republican)

* Destined for War by Graham T. Allison (Democrat - Joe Biden recommended book)

* The China Dream by Liu Mingfu (Chinese PLA General)

You should look up what "orientalist" means before embracing the label. It is not a compliment.

Liu Mingfu is a Chinese PLA General residing in China.

Yeah, if you speak of a nation as an single individual, I've got news for you, you're doing it wrong.

That's rather ridiculous. The US has seen massive social instability over the past 400 years. The Revolution, the Civil War, slavery and the Slave Trade, the Great Depression, etc. And the founders of the US, being mostly European, were descended from people who lived through absolutely catastrophic social instability in Europe. Never-ending wars over religion and territory and on and on...

What "real chaos" has "China" (which is, by the way, nowhere homogenous) seen that we have not seen?

EDIT: I suppose the Great Leap Forward was an example of "real chaos", to an extent we haven't seen in the West. But where was China's 4,000 years of history to stop the deaths of millions of their own?

Do you really think that Europe and other parts of the world have not had wars?

Why do you think wars occur? Political fragmentation.

Ever heard of Pax Romana?

China has been able to maintain its civilization state and it has a continuous history.

You commented this twice already as some sort of universal truth. But in fact the region known as modern-day China had one major conflict after another like they occurred in any other region in the globe. Also what does it mean to "maintain" civilization when at least 45 million people died under Mao due to famine, overwork and state violence? Is putting Uighurs in concentration camps "maintaining" civilization?

>at least 45 million

Not at least, 45 is on the high end of estimates


From your own Wikipedia link:

>Frank Dikötter, Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and the author of Mao's Great Famine, estimated that at least 45 million people died from starvation, overwork and state violence during the Great Leap Forward, claiming his findings to be based on access to recently opened local and provincial party archives.

I recommend reading "On China" which describes this concept thoroughly.

> Also what does it mean to "maintain" civilization when at least 45 million people died under Mao due to famine, overwork and state violence? Is putting Uighurs in concentration camps "maintaining" civilization?


I mean, the word "civilization" just makes reference to a complex society with certain societal and governmental structures. A civilization can be peaceful but it can also be brutal. Many (if not all) historical civilizations started wars, took slaves, forced people to adopt certain religions or customs, or made outright genocides, and that doesn't make them less of a civilization.

>What "real chaos" has "China" (which is, by the way, nowhere homogenous) seen that we have not seen?

This is ill-informed and easily proven wrong.

I'm no China apologist, but the Chinese have suffered the worst human disasters in history.

Let's go down the list of top 10 anthropogenic disasters by geometric mean death toll and count the causalities in China [1]:

1. 2nd World War estimated 70 million dead, 17.5 million dead in China [2]

2. Three Kingdom War 38 million dead, all Chinese

3. Mongol Conquests 35 million dead and transition from Song to Yuan. Chinese population registers drop from 140 million to 70 million. [3]

4. European Colonization of the Americas 35 million dead, no Chinese dead

5. Taiping Rebellion 35 million dead, all Chinese

6 Red Eyebrows Rebellion 30 million dead, all Chinese

7. Muslim conquest of India 41 million dead, no Chinese

8. Ming Conquest of Yuan 30 million dead, all Chinese

9. Qing conquest of Ming 25 million dead, all Chinese

10. Second Sino-Japanese War 22 million dead, mostly Chinese

and as a bonus:

11. An Lushan Rebellion 21 million dead, all Chinese

Let's count the bodies.

Total dead in 11 conflicts: about 380 million dead

Chinese dead: about 200-220 million dead.

The Chinese are in a whole other ball park in terms of historical suffering. Nothing in American history compares to even a civil war most Americans have never heard of, like the An Lushan rebellion. For perspective, "only" 700,000 American soldiers died in the US Civil War and there were no accounts of civilian casualties of similar magnitude.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Total_...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China

Uhh what about European or the Middle east or any other part of the world

What about them? GP is conveying the scale of just wars, this isn't including natural disasters that have ripped through China. What are some comparable things to happen in europe and the middle east?

A few months ago I ran into this list: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deadliest_floods

Absolutely mind boggling.

>Uhh what about European or the Middle east or any other part of the world That was a list of top 10 anthropogenic disasters for the whole world. Europe and the Middle East's disasters are listed.

They also undeaded (if that's a word) 650 million humans since 1960. That's 88.4 billion lbs of weight added to earth, yielding a slight gravitational shift. I see that as a net positive for them!

Do you know who else has a 4,000 year history of instability, even greater instability? Europe. The height of centralized political stability in Europe was the Roman Empire, or maybe Napoleon. Yet you don't hear many Europeans saying "We need to bring back the Roman Empire", or "We need to bring back Napoleon". China values social stability because they have a dictatorship for whom social stability is a convenient idea to push. Ironically, the last serious bout of instability was the Cultural Revolution, which was a entirely a product of conflicts within the dictatorship.

Comparing the Roman Empire to Napoleon who lived fifty years and only invaded then briefly ruled neighboring European countries under heavy turmoil is quite a stretch.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact