Chinese Technology Platforms Operating in the United States: Assessing the Threat

Privacy and Security and Artificial Intelligence

Article Snapshot


Gary Corn, Jennifer Daskal, Jack L. Goldsmith, John C. Inglis, Paul Rosenzweig, Samm Sacks, Bruce Schneier, Alex Stamos and Vincent Stewart


Joint Report of the National Security, Technology, and Law Working Group at the Hoover Institution and the Tech, Law & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law, February 11, 2021


China's control over communications platforms such as TikTok raises important national security issues. The U.S. government could more systematically assess the threat of Chinese platforms and possible U.S. responses.

Policy Relevance

Policymakers could advance national security interests by supporting a free and open internet.

Main Points

  • China wields its power in the digital sphere to the detriment of U.S. national security interests, including U.S. interests in data privacy, free speech, and economic competitiveness.
  • The Chinese government subsidizes and protects Chinese technology firms, and encourages Chinese apps to integrate social media, financial, personal, and business functions.
    • Integration gives the government unprecedented control and access to information.
    • The Chinese government seeks to influence technological standards world-wide.
  • Some technology firms within China resisted the Chinese government’s data access requests, but the current Chinese regime has ended reform and liberalization efforts in law and government.
  • China's control over communications platforms enables the Chinese government to access data, individuals, and organizations useful in targeting sensitive systems.
    • Aggregated data can be used to train hostile artificial intelligences.
    • Data can be used abroad to target democracy or sow panic in crisis.
    • Access to devices and networks can enable cyberattacks.
  • Some U.S. responses might give authoritarian regimes rhetorical ammunition or set dangerous precedents; U.S. responses should preserve key freedoms and values such as rights of free speech and diversity.
  • Some U.S. responses could affect economic competitiveness; bans on foreign ownership could backfire if other nations raise digital trade barriers to U.S.-based firms in turn.
  • The U.S. government could support systems for auditing technologies with national security implications, such as the United Kingdom’s center for testing and evaluating the security of 5G telecommunications equipment.
  • The U.S. could develop broad policy responses to limit national security threats, such as strengthening cybersecurity generally; the U.S. could pass strong privacy legislation to restrict the collection and sale of data by private firms.
  • Internationally, the U.S. could partner with key allies, especially in Asia, to support a free, open, and secure internet; the U.S. could engage with standard-setting bodies to counteract Chinese efforts to influence internet standards.

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