Time Australia banned WeChat

Via Bloomberg:

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday that the U.S. would bar WeChat and its parent company from letting users send money to friends, family or businesses. It also banned business relationships with certain third-party technology providers starting Sunday. The move will make it harder to access and use a tool that helps more than 19 million people in the U.S. conduct business and stay in touch with contacts in China.

…“I can just say our goal is really very straightforward — protecting the American information and data from ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “And so while we are reviewing the proposal, trying to evaluate if we can successfully achieve those outcomes, that will be our measure.”

More at WaPo:

The Trump administration’s executive order to curb the use of the mobile app WeChat, which will be banned from app stores beginning Sunday, has become a flashpoint in the deepening standoff between China and the United States. But unlike most actions this administration has taken over the past four years, the proposed ban on WeChat can be a net positive for human rights.

App bans in general belong to the censorship arsenal of illiberal regimes, but WeChat is one of a kind, and banning it might eventually strengthen the liberal world order.

Critics of the ban say WeChat is “China’s bridge to the world” and a “lifeline” for the Chinese diaspora. But these metaphors obscure the app’s true nature. They ignore concerns about political liberty and human security that are central to the debate that has long surrounded this controversial app.

WeChat is not a bridge — it’s a closed system that keeps its 1.2 billion users in a parallel universe where they are free to interact as long as they don’t cross the lines. This super app runs on a technology of tyranny that combines algorithms of surveillance, repression and distraction to depoliticize the individual and demobilize the collective. Nor is WeChat simply a “lifeline” for diaspora populations. The app is a rope that binds the diaspora to a command center in Beijing. This platform powers the apparatus of transnational repression that Beijing employs to silence its exiled dissidents, intimidate overseas activists and surveil protesters.

Between 2004 and 2012, when I worked as a Tibet rights campaigner in New York, we held regular protests at the Chinese consulate. The demonstrations routinely drew hundreds, sometimes thousands, of exiled Tibetans. But sometime between 2012 and 2015, as more and more Tibetans adopted WeChat to establish contact with their families in Tibet, they became susceptible to China’s long-distance relational repression, a coercive technique through which relatives are strategically harassed in the home country to silence a particular activist abroad.

I know several Tibetans who, once they started using WeChat, slowly disappeared from the street protests and went silent on social media. Among the newly silenced are former political prisoners. In Tibet, they defied the Chinese regime, risking imprisonment and torture. Today, living as free citizens in the United States or Europe, they dare not speak freely or attend protests, because their speech or action might land their relatives back home in trouble.

ASPI recently described the local problem:

The Chinese ‘super-app’ WeChat, which is indispensable in China, has approximately 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, including 100 million installations outside of China.

The app has become the long arm of the Chinese regime, extending the PRC’s techno-authoritarian reach into the lives of its citizens and non-citizens in the diaspora.

WeChat users outside of China are increasingly finding themselves trapped in a mobile extension of the Great Firewall of China through which they’re subjected to surveillance, censorship and propaganda. This report also shows how Covid-19 has ushered in an expanded effort to covertly censor and control the public diplomacy communications of foreign governments on WeChat.

Newcomer TikTok, through its unparalleled growth in both Asian and Western markets, has a vastly larger and broader global audience of nearly 700 million as of July 2020.

This report finds that TikTok engages in censorship on a range of political and social topics, while also demoting and suppressing content. Case studies in this report show how discussions related to LGBTQ+ issues, Xinjiang and protests currently occurring in the US, for example, are being affected by censorship and the curation and control of information. Leaked content moderation documents have previously revealed that TikTok has instructed “its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong,” among other censorship rules.

There is plenty more on the censorship within WeChat here.

Australia must ban WeChat to protect the ethnic Chinese diaspora within our shores from CCP interference. The Australian Chinese diaspora is much larger per capita than in the US and much more at risk of interference.

If it is left at the mercy of CCP psy-ops, the consequences for our marvelous multicultural fabric will be catastrophic as decoupling advances and Bejing stokes dissent.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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Comments

  1. Yes ASAP its really is used to brainwash, spread disinformation and dissent and arrange intimidation of any perceived threat to the CCP / PLA. Poison, get rid of it.

    • Would you ban Zoom, FB Messenger et cie all coming from FB, M$oft, GGL and other known, confirmed and convicted spying businesses?

      • Sure. If the US blocked all of our local alternatives.

        You’re missing the main point behind all of it. It’s about reciprocity. China’s a one way street. They’ll never pull down their firewall until it becomes a burden. The only way to make it a burden is to reinforce it from the outside.

        It doesn’t matter whether it’s a stone castle or a firewall, ancient siege tactics still apply.
        Cut them off from their food, (money – wechat facilitates many deals) and eventually they’ll either starve or open the gate.

        • Assange is being prosecuted in the Hague right now, Snowden is in hiding – half the world has been reduced to rubble.

          It aint China screwing everyone over mate – that is for sure. And everyone knows who it is.

        • @ myne

          Once capitalism model is abandoned, there is no way back. There can be only more and more items subjects to ban until one day there is nothing left to ban (unless US businesses have sizeable share).
          Everyone talks of US-China trade imbalance in goods but when services are included, the tip of the scale tilts at another side by a lot. Software is at the top of the list
          China has Android, Microsoft and Google as tools of US – a security threat, and yet they did not ban them,
          I laughed at proposition for GGL Android to be refused to Chinese… could not wait for alternatives to sprout like mushrooms (and they got a boost)

          • Capitalism is about making deals which both parties are happy with – and anyone can compete freely.
            Unfair deals like the one way street relationship always lead to unhappiness. Can anyone compete freely in China?

            Call that capitalism? Pfft!

          • I cannot comprehend a call to fight inequality with more inequality.
            Do you really think that Chinese made OS for either computer or phone will have a level ground on US market?

            WeChat and TikTok hysteria is nothing about reciprocity, it is all about one super-power’s world market share that is rapidly losing ground.
            The only loser in the end will be US and its minions that follow suite.

    • we can’t buy there, but they will always be able to buy property here.
      even if we go to war Scott will let Chinese buy RE here. Even Xi will be allowed to buy.

    • I should add that it is constitutionally allowed.

      51. Legislative powers of the Parliament
      – 26: the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;

  2. Australia must ban WeChat to protect the ethnic Chinese diaspora within our shores from CCP interference.

    LOL, logically false statement
    (a proper qualification would earn a ban)

    No one is forcing them to use it.
    WeChat is a platform that is simply better than many and has elements of FB-like image sharing. Its popularity is purely due to practicality and features. It is spreading among non-Chinese equally since the introduction of English version

    A call for a “ban” of an app that no one is forced to use is a simple hysteria and anti-capitalism. An opaque form of misplaced McCartyism to unduly favour US businesses.
    When US companies are losing in the game they invented and with rules tilted heavily against non-US origin, only a ban is left. When cannot win, introduce sanctions and cry human rights.:-)

    • Good luck – you’re not allowed to speak out against glorious Chairman Llewellyn-Smith and his occidental campaign.

      US Death toll in middle east since 1st gulf war nears 5 Million. Crickets.

      China has an app that does the same thing every single US app does – human rights breach.

      US has Guantanamo, Abhu Graib and a confirmed global network of secret rendition and torture sites – fine. China has education facilities even the BBC camera and journalist teams confirm on multiple occasions are just adult education and work place training – CONCENTRATION CAMPS !!

      Its paid up propaganda as part of operation Mockingbird – local incels love it.

      • Good post.
        The United States of America have offence personnel in around 120 of the 198 countries on Earth.
        If the US doesn’t agree with any country it applies a sanction on them.
        The US doesn’t allow any country to buy oil unless they first buy US$s to buy the oil…. since 1974.
        The USA’s largest export is the US$ created as debt by fiat.

        Which country is the biggest bully, China or the USA?

      • ‘China has education facilities even the BBC camera and journalist teams confirm on multiple occasions are just adult education and work place training – CONCENTRATION CAMPS !!’
        Who the fcuk are you? And why is it that you don’t see the rest of the information on the ‘education camps’?????
        And at what point should the german people have stopped their ‘education camps’?

      • John Howards Bowling Coach

        Your extremely pro China comments have an odd whiff. But I give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t just a CCP troll. You need to make less sweeping statements against the USA if you want to be taken serious, for example a statement that every single US app makes a human right breach is absolute crap. Sure the USA is flawed and yes they are looking out for themselves, but China is worse, a lot worse. The world seems to think it’s a human right to sell to the US consumer and get rich off that, but selling to the Chinese consumer is not only tough because their economy is in fact a fraction of the size they and the idiot economist of the world claim, but because China is extremely protectionist and in breach of their FTA with no one bold enough (aside from the USA) to call them out on it. Google, Facebook and many many US businesses are banned/blocked in China, the US doing the same to them is creating a storm for nothing more than balance. But the real issue is that WeChat for example is tightly monitored/controlled/edited by the CCP, are you trying to say the government of the USA is editing people’s Facebook posts? China is totalitarian, it’s reality, accept it

        • Depends what you define large. Including financial transactions and low/no skill services in the pointless GDP measure may give impression of size and satisfy national egos. China’s ‘physical’ economy is very large. For instance, If I recall correctly, 15 of the top ports in the world by tonnage movements are Chinese. There is hardly a product that does not have some elements finished or semi finished components from China in it.

    • Agree with your logic. Also makes no sense to ban Wechat only. People have already been getting ripped off by a number of (mainly American) social networking corporates for nearly two decades and god knows where/how our data was used/manipulated.

      Say WeChat donated personal data to CCP, now you are just naively saying that none of FB/Google data has leaked/flown through to the US government and other bodies..I mean how on earth we know all about this?

    • I don’t understand the reasoning here. China has a firewall and a social credit system as well as an authoritarian state policing conformity nationally and overseas via its consulates. It has an office concerned with overseas Chinese:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Chinese_Affairs_Office

      That increasing extends to all members of the diaspora, basically on ‘racial’ grounds as part of a Stasi-like state:

      https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/beijings-influence-operations-target-chinese-diaspora/

      Clearly it is in everyone’s interests in wannabe democratic societies to promote communications that can be used freely by all people in all domains to promote transparency. If any authoritarian state shows that it seeks to monitor and influence its diaspora in Australia, as well as restrict their right to access information in China, they should not be given the tools to do so.

      In fairness, other nations (Israel) also seeks to mobilise their diaspora politically – but they do not have a firewall and ban free access to information. This makes China a special case.

      • If you read again… no one is forcing anyone to use WeChat once outside China (don’t know the case IN CHina).

        Call that ban on WeChat is a service towards democratisation of Chinese expats outside China would not pass the logic test of primary school kid.
        Chinese expats can use FB messenger, Viber, Skype, WatsApp or all other US apps for spying communication.
        I can guarantee ytou that they prefer WeChat because it is overall better mix of things.

        Most likely cause for WeChat and TikTok ban is advertising revenue.

        WeChat does not have advertising that interferes with anything one uses. I never saw an ad on WeChat (unlike all the US based peers)

        • Irrespective of the perception of WeChat and China it is a better designed service than rubbish like Facebook. Just an observation not a China fan.

  3. Don’t expect the Libs to ban WeChat. If it wasn’t for WeChat the Useful Idiot for Chisholm wouldn’t have been able to spread her propaganda about how Labor wants to turn your kids gay and everything.

      • Yep, ‘tough guy means business’. This plays well with many people. Can’t wait for the pics of a topless Trump on a mule with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Should clinch it for him on November 3rd.

  4. The solution to dealing with China is simple: reciprocity. Apply the rules to China and its companies and government entities that they apply to the west. No google, FB, insta, in China and no Chinese social media apps in the west. Ditto for foreign investment, trade protectionism and every other major area of contention. Just mirror what the Chinese do – this is something Trump does very well and gets little credit for.

    • You really think someone will prohibit me from using WeChat?
      When all the rest of the world uses it, US “west” will be the only one not using it.
      Imagine ban on GGL, Windows and Android on US “adversaries”…. it makes sy serotone levels too high as it means their own demise.

  5. Blocking WeChat provides a fantastic opportunity for local Chinese Entrepreneurs to set up the Western hosted alternative. Bring it on.

  6. I don’t know why Australia should follow the path of the CCP and start banning platforms like Wechat.
    However I can see the need for select targeted bans, such as banning Wechat from commonwealth funded devices issued to defence personnel, members of the government etc
    Banning something just makes people go out and want to get it.
    Wechat is used alot for business.

  7. If you want to communicate with someone in China, the easiest way is through WeChat. This goes for both business and people. Technology-wise it is similar to using email, only much faster and much easier to use. So the call to ‘ban it’ is purely symbolic : anyone with basic knowledge can write a ‘YouChat’ app that will communicate with the WeChat servers (if they open up the API for connection to outside China)

    It’s mostly symbolism.

    • I have no doubt the CCP are keeping tabs on the diaspora via WeChat and other platforms but I can’t fathom what value the spending habits of other Westerners (mainly kids) would have.

      If you’ve ever seen a text exchange between teenagers it would make your head explode it’s so inane. As for payments, CCP analyst notes that a spotty scrote called Jayden went to Hungry Jacks every day after school last week. Time to invade Straya?