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James Andrew Lewis: China and the United States are difficult to reach consensus

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Dr.James Andrew Lewis, Senior Fellow in Cyber Security

James Andrew Lewis is senior Vice President and Director of strategic technology Initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and has served as a foreign Service officer and senior executive in the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce. A PhD from the University of Chicago, he is an internationally recognized expert on cyber security and technology, and was one of the first to address cyber security as a policy and strategic issue. His research interests include cyber security and technology, national defense security, economics, geopolitics and international security. Related publications include "Ban TikTok (Again)," "How Scary is TikTok? Can We Compete in Cyberspace? And The Technology Crisis with China.

China and the United States are difficult to reach consensus

1.In 2016, it was reported that US social media use citizens' privacy information to launch election advertisements to interfere in the election. Does this demonstrate that the US has some problems in protecting the privacy of Internet users? How has the U.S. government solved this problem?

The reporting was inaccurate. Russia used citizen data that it bought through an intermediary. Privacy iin the US but it is a commercial issue, not political.

2.What do you think are the main reasons for the Trump administration to ban TikTok? What are the standards of national cyber security in the United States?

Trump was worried that China would use TikTok for influence operations and to covertly collect data on its American users. It reflected a larger distrust of China’s massive surveillance and propaganda efforts that the Biden Administration and Congress share.

3. In your article Ban TikTok (Again), you oppose TikTok mainly because of the unilateral concessions to China and the privacy of business data. Which area do you think will be most difficult for China and America to reach an agreement if they negotiate? In your opinion, is there a win-win solution to this problem?

The economic models of the two countries are fundamentally different. This complicates reaching agreement. The most difficult part will be to agree on a method to verify compliance with the terms of any agreement, and penalties for noncompliance. I don’t think there is chance for agreement at this time and when China says win-win, it’s usually a bad sign.

4. While the US does not trust Chinese companies to protect their users' privacy, China has taken similar actions. Sitting on their hands will only make the situation worse and increase mistrust on both sides. As two leading power in the world, do you think it is possible for China and the United States to reach a consensus on internet-related consultation? Do you think it is feasible to use third-party platform standards such as the Sino-EU CAI to create the same standards for both sides?

Let’s see how the CAI plays out. If it works, then it could be a good model. The key is reciprocal treatment of foreign companies, and I don’t expect China to accept this fully because the government thinks it creates political risk. Attitudes towards the rule of law are also important, and until China has an independent judiciary there will always be questions in the US.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu



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