China’s English-language state tabloid, Global Times, wrote in an op-ed Tuesday that the United States’ “hysterical” decision to ban TikTok on government devices was to distract people from the Ohio toxic train derailment.
The ultra-nationalistic outlet wrote that the U.S. was attempting to “cover up" the disaster in East Palestine after TikTok users helped “push the story into the public.”
The Global Times op-ed fuels an online narrative echoed by Chinese nationalists and American right-wing figures that the Biden administration and mainstream media are engaged in a cover-up of the disaster.
The White House said Monday that it was giving federal agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from government-issued mobile devices over concerns of China’s access to user data. Both Canada and the European Union have issued similar bans.
China has rebuked the bans, mocking the U.S. for being insecure about an app for “young people.”
“How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower be to fear a young people’s favorite app like that?” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday. Chinese state media like CCTV and Xinhua ran to TikTok’s defense by republishing Mao’s comments.
The Global Times’ op-ed went a step further calling the decision “as unreasonable as Biden’s order to shoot down balloons with missiles” and citing an international relations expert who said it was “an irrational action generated by security anxiety stemming from a kind of mental illness.”
The View From Weibo
Several Chinese social media users called out the double standard of their government criticizing the TikTok bans, given that China has banned multiple social media apps in the country.
“ChatGPT, Gmail, Dropbox, Google Apps, Google Play, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, Reddit, Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Line,” wrote one Weibo one user, listing the apps and websites blocked behind ”The Great Firewall.”
“I laughed to death, some netizens didn’t even know that Douyin’s English name is TikTok,” another user wrote, referring to the highly-censored and regulated Douyin app which is only available in China. “They said : why can’t China have it, if foreign countries are using it? Help!”
However some nationalistic accounts supported China’s criticism of TikTok bans, invoking the Ohio derailment.
“I believe it can be seen from the Ohio leak that they are not afraid of data security, but afraid of the people telling the truth,” one user posted. “In the United States, if people speak, the sky will really fall.”
The Ohio toxic train derailment has become “a focal point of China’s recent anti-US propaganda," Wenhao Ma, a VOA reporter, said in a tweet.
As Semafor previously reported, Chinese nationalists on social media have echoed conspiracies from American right-wing figures, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, that the U.S. government and media were using reports about spy balloons and UFOs to distract from the train spill.
On Tuesday, another Republican member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, cited a Global Times “investigative report” during a congressional hearing as evidence that the U.S. had been sending too many weapons to Ukraine.
In response, Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, quickly rebuffed Gaetz for repeating Chinese propaganda.
“I don’t take Beijing’s propaganda at face value,” Kahl said, to which Gaetz replied: “Fair enough.”