Trump’s WeChat Ban Is Xenophobic

The ban of the Chinese messaging app WeChat could have disastrous effects on the Chinese immigrant community.

Ashley Wu, Editor-at-Large

After the news broke that President Donald Trump was set on banning TikTok in America, the app’s myriad of devoted followers spoke out against the injunction with semi-religious fervor. Proponents of the app praised it as a platform for creativity and a place for marginalized voices to share their creations. Others called the decision a violation of free speech. The reasons for banning the app, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, ranged from fear of Chinese data collection on U.S. citizens to spite for TikTok users’ role in reducing crowds at Trump’s Tulsa rally.

However, under all the buzz surrounding TikTok, Trump has been orchestrating another ban on the Chinese messaging app WeChat. This move could have astronomical ramifications for the Chinese-American community.

Chinese parent company Tencent was able to establish WeChat as China’s premier app due to the country’s refusal to accommodate American tech mainstays such as Google and Facebook. The app became an all-encompassing mechanism for Chinese citizens, who use it to pay for goods and services, find transportation, play games and communicate with friends and relatives all around the world.

WeChat has been criticized for its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, as exchanging certain phrases and topics can result in unsavory consequences for app users. However, the app has become such an important part of communication for many Chinese individuals that it cannot be removed from people’s lives.

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Plus, WeChat is the premier method of communication between Chinese-Americans and their relatives still in China. That means that despite its shortcomings, WeChat is an invaluable resource for chronicling the Chinese diaspora. In an article published by BBC News, Chinese immigrants express how the WeChat ban makes them feel unwelcome in this country. After a slew of anti-Chinese sentiments uttered by Donald Trump, most notably his use of the term “Chinese virus,” alongside coronavirus-related attacks on Asians, the recent actions are a deliberate way of alienating Chinese-Americans from their communities when they need it the most.

The ban has immediate effects on communication with China’s elderly population and those who are less tech savvy as well. For many students, WeChat is the only form of communication with their Chinese grandparents. International calls rack up a hefty bill, and teaching the elderly to use VPN to access American social media platforms can prove to be a difficult feat. The same complications afflict other members of our immigrant community, and the imminent ban could mean an loss of correspondence between Chinese people at a time when correspondence is an invaluable tool for keeping them afloat.

In addition to the interpersonal toll, banning WeChat could pose major issues for the American economy. Due to the app’s payment function, it has been used as a tool for transferring funds and messages between businesses in both countries — making the app crucial to the day-to-day functionings of businesses. The President of AmCham Shanghai mentioned that losing WeChat as a tool could be an “existential threat” to the livelihood of many American businesses. A WeChat ban could also sever ties between major corporations like Starbucks, Walmart and Nike from a large base of Chinese consumers who use the app to order products.

It is evident that Trump’s hasty decision to ban WeChat has far more drawbacks than benefits. Although censorship and policing is a threat to the commonwealth in both America and China, the app needs to remain available if we are to weather its abilities. If Trump moves forward with his xenophobic prohibition of WeChat, we would be limiting democracy in the same way the U.S. government criticized Beijing for doing many years ago.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Ashley Wu at [email protected]

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8 COMMENTS

  1. By claiming Trump’s WeChat ban is xenophobic, you are condemning the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s total ban on all non-CCP controlled apps and non-CCP backing internet websites by ordinary citizens in China, aren’t you?

    Or you are exercising your free speech right here to facilitate the CCP’s far-reaching censorship to its people, and the people overseas who have any connection with China?

  2. Ban wechat, it is filled with anti American totalitarian propaganda now, it is a dangerous platform for Americans in the future. wechat pay And wechat money is a Illegal currency it’s used for end to end transaction and frauds. It has been widely used for tax invasion, money laundering fraud. wechat pay and wechat money is dangerous to Americans, The Mother company of wechat Tentcent should be held Responsible for conspiracy to defraud, money laundering. it’s time to stand up and demand our American government’s law enforcement agencies to put an end to wechat’s illegal operations.

  3. I challenge the editors to publish my above comments on WSN as a counter-argument to the original piece. It would be helpful to keep anonymity as a concern to the enacted national security law in Hong Kong.

  4. ** It appears that my long-form comment was gone after it was posted last night, while the two subsequent comments I posted later remains to be seen. I sincerely hope that my equal right of expression under the First Amendment is protected here. As mentioned earlier, I challenge the editors to publish my comments below on WSN as a letter to counter-argue to the original piece. Thank you.

    This message is written to Managing Editor Abby Hofstetter, Deputy Managing Editor Alexandria Johnson, Deputy Managing Editor Jun Sung, Deputy Managing Editor Ethan Zack, Opinion Editor Emily Dai, Opinion Editor Helen Wajda and the general public.

    I am writing to express my concern to the opinion pieces titled “Trump’s WeChat Ban Is Xenophobic”, and another one titled “Travel Can Revitalize Hong Kong” published on WSN.

    In the earlier HK piece, the writer claimed that the 2019 civil protest in Hong Kong has attributed the city’s job loss and downturn of the economy. She further stated that the “livelihood of Hong Kong is something worth campaigning for”. The quoted message is the exact sound bite of HK’s pro-Beijing, pro-establishment camp’s attempt to vilify the protest and to demonize the young protesters, who are at the core of the pro-democracy movement risking their lives and future, to defend the freedom and rights enjoyed by the city’s residents for decades even when the territory was under the British colonial rule. The massive protest in Hong Kong was set against the backdrop of a proposed extradition bills, widely seen as erosion of Hong Kong’s legal system and encroachment on basic human rights. Here is BBC News report on Hong Kong Protest in 100 words (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49317695). Young protesters were shot by police at point-blank range; police has tossed the universities from being a sanctuary of knowledge, free thoughts and young minds into charred battle grounds. See reports by New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/18/world/asia/hong-kong-protest-universities.html) and CNN (https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/asia/hong-kong-poly-university-protest-police-intl-hnk/index.html). Simply put, there is no meaningful discussion on future and livelihood when you can no longer live your life without fear; when your basic rights and freedom were ruptured, owing to the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”)’s insatiable appetite of power control and the ever tightened grip on every single facet of people’s way of life and thoughts. A sweeping national security law was enacted by CCP to Hong Kong bypassing the Hong Kong Legislative Council this year, targeted the dissenting voices. Voicing a different opinion now carries a chilling effect of criminal implication of secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces with up to life in prison (https://time.com/5867000/hong-kong-china-national-security-law-effect/). In addition, CCP suspended the 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council’s September election, which effectively stripping off Hong Kongers’ voting rights to elect their own representatives (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/31/hong-kong-delays-legislative-council-elections-as-coronavirus-cases-surge.html).

    And yes, one may argue that the writer is entitled to free speech rights, enshrined by the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution. She can advocate her cause without fear, be it to vilify HK young pro-democracy protesters, or to call the President banning a CCP controlled social app “Xenophobic”, willfully blind to the fact that the app is tasked to surveillant its massive users and to facilitate spreading the CCP propaganda among Chinese community. Yes, banning the WeChat may cause inconvenience for Chinese Americans to communicate with their family members back home to some extent, thanks to the almighty Great Firewall of China blocking each and every non-CCP backing internet websites and social apps from its people. By calling such a ban “Xenophobic”, the writer ignored or downplayed (1) the extreme surveillance and heavy censorship imposed to the users against their will, (2) the blatant intrusion of users’ privacy and malice collection of their personal and social data without their permission; (3) the effective dissemination of CCP’s propaganda to users on both sides of the Great Firewall, and (4) the root cause of such inconvenience is CCP’s total ban on all non-CCP controlled apps in China. The article has well served the purpose of dressing up the CCP’s agenda.

    This is an extremely unfair game. Those advocating for CCP can take advantage of the free speech right guaranteed in the free world to promote their agenda; while those who have a dissenting voice to CCP’s policy have to risk criminal implications to utilize the same platform, if any. Under the enacted national security law, CCP’s tentacles have extended to U.S. citizens for their activities on U.S. soil ( https://hongkongfp.com/2020/08/01/exile-is-no-protection-from-hong-kong-security-law-says-us-dissident-samuel-chu-wanted-for-secession/). U.S. business such as NBA was humiliated and punished by CCP for one of its member exercising his free speech right to support Hong Kong’s democracy movement (https://hongkongfp.com/2019/10/08/nba-says-backs-free-speech-hong-kong-tweet-furore-downplays-chinese-language-statement/). It is a hefty price to bear to speak up against a totalitarian government.

    There is no dispute that, irrespective the heavy censorship and the malice collection of personal data by CCP, TikTok is fun to play, and WeChat ban may cause inconvenience. However, it’s equally important to point out that when an article is published to vilify the young protesters’ seemingly hopeless uphill battle against a mighty monster, or to ridicule the ban on one or two fun social apps, it does carry the effect of diminishing the hope and the struggle of those whose lives and livelihood were disrupted, taken away, and damaged beyond repair by a ruthless government.

    “Freedom of speech is indivisible; unless we protect it for all, we will have it for no one.” – Harry Kalven, Jr.( https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1298/harry-kalven-jr)

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