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Communication & Technology, Media & Entertainment, Politics & Law

Managing TikTok is the first global test to China’s cultural power


TikTok’s worldwide downloads generated more than 660 million in 2018 and in Q4 it overtook YouTube to become #1 (chart from mediakix.com)

The Beijing-based TikTok “added approximately 13.2 million new users [in] the United States during Q1[2019]…” reported on April 10 by the Mobile App Store marketing intelligence agent Sensor Tower.

If you do not know what TikTok is, this Influencer Marketing article tells you ‘All you need to know about TikTok in 2019”:

“… TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing platform that allows its users to create and post 15-second videos … In August 2018, Chinese company ByteDance took over Musical.ly, and its users were moved to their app called TikTok…

“… Quick Facts
500m active monthly users globally
Ranks higher than Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest & Snapchat in terms of active monthly users
Available in 75 languages and 154 countries
$1.4m estimated monthly earnings
Huge hit in Asia & growing US market
42% of revenue from the US
1,000,000 estimated daily page views on Jan 5, 2019
#1 Android app in the US January 2019 …”

In response to this worldwide heating wave, the West hits back. Firstly, it is about the teenagers. Bloomberg reported on the “concerns over privacy and child safety” on April 18, and how TikTok is acting to avoid misuse, such as “denying entry to the full-feature app to those why say they’re under 13”.

“… TikTok has won cautious praise from some child safety advocates … Bytedance is aiming for more than mere social responsibility. The company’s long-term goal is to eliminate objectionable content entirely, to be ‘controversy free’ …”

How to do it? If your guess is ‘self-censorship’, a brilliant Chinese practice, you are correct. Bloomberg’s article further mentioned this:

“… The company hired thousands of people to police content, giving preference to Communist Party members, and invested more money in developing algorithms to screen posts …”

The second Western strike-back is national security. On May 7, a QZ commentator described this less than 1 minute multi-media app as a ‘Tick Tock Boom’ and asked: “Is TikTok a Chinese Cambridge Analystica data bomb waiting to explode?” (For your information, Cambridge Analytica is being investigated for manipulating Donald Trump’s campaign, the Brexit vote 2016, and the Mexican general election 2018.)

Sure, there will be many more questions coming up when TikTok is going to become a worldly common software operating inside the smartphone of millions of people. While its popularity may be short-lived, it also has a potential to become a new platform of communication for phone users globally. It is for the first time a Chinese social media product has attained the level that it is so close to the global rank like facebook and tweeter. Managing TikTok’s development will be a tough challenge not just to the holding company, their investors, but also the cultural power of modern China.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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