Strauss Center News

Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


Greitens Weighs in on the Trump Administration’s Executive Order regarding TikTok and WeChat

Aug 26, 2020 |

Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar, recently participated in a podcast moderated by Strauss Center Director Robert Chesney. In this conversation, Greitens and co-panelist Ronald Deibert discuss the recent Executive Order by the Trump administration that sanctions TikTok and WeChat, situating this development in the context of the greater U.S.-China relationship. Professor Greitens kicked off the conversation by providing an overview of this relationship and highlighting three major converging trends. First, as China has risen in global power, its foreign policy has taken a more assertive turn, as illustrated by actions in Hong Kong, expanded activity in the South China Sea, and recent confrontations with Indian forces in a disputed border area. Second, U.S. political conversation has pivoted towards the “tough on China” rhetoric that is somewhat typical for election seasons. Third, the Trump administration’s particularly strong response and willingness to rethink fundamental tenets of the US-China relationship have contributed to present dynamics. This is especially true since they have placed technology at the center of the US-China competition and confrontation. 

 Greitens also noted the important role of WeChat in the Chinese diaspora community, where it serves as the primary means of communication between Chinese expatriates and their families in China. Greitens then discussed additional factors that have led to this “watershed moment” in the U.S.-China relationship: the Hong Kong protests and Beijing’s response, the CCP’s use of mass detentions in Xinjiang, President Xi Jinping’s “comprehensive security” theory, which blurs the boundary between internal and external security, and the huge uptick in the number of American users of TikTok that coincided with the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. Greitens concluded by discussing the export and spread of the Chinese surveillance model. Here she argues that it is imperative that the U.S. take on a leadership role in the global conversation in technology and privacy rights in order to offer up an alternative model that is compatible with security, privacy, and liberal democracy. Listen to the full conversation here.