WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. should ban TikTok, calling it a platform that allowed the Chinese government to obtain data on Americans without their knowledge.
“We ought to be banning TikTok. TikTok is a platform for the Chinese Communist government. They are collecting data on Americans every single day,” Pence said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Young Americans need to know that their privacy is being compromised.”
Pence’s comments come before a policy speech he will deliver Monday on China. The relationship between the world’s two largest economies has gained growing attention in the 2024 presidential race. Republican candidates, including Pence, have criticized President Joe Biden, saying he must take a tougher line with Beijing over a number of issues.
Pence delivered a jab at one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
“I know that one of my competitors, Vivek Ramaswamy in the Republican primary, he had rightly described TikTok as a digital fentanyl for American youth, and this week he signed up for TikTok. He said he’d met with one of their executives and they changed his mind,” Pence said. “Well, they are never going to change my mind.”
The fight over TikTok is just one aspect of the growing tensions between the U.S. and China over their technological ambitions. Biden has limited exports of advanced chipmaking technology over fears it could be used to help China’s military. China in turn has imposed its own restrictions, including on U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc.’s ability to sell products.
China is also seeking to ban the use of iPhones for state-owned enterprises — a blow to Apple Inc. that would broaden previously announced restrictions. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby this week told reporters that China’s moves on Apple appeared to be retaliation.
Huawei Technologies Co. also recently quietly revealed a mobile telephone that uses technology the U.S. has sought to keep out of Beijing’s hands, questioning the efficacy of U.S. chip restrictions.
“We led the fight internationally against Huawei among Western nations, and we won that fight,” Pence said. “If you remember, the U.K. and other nations were going all in on Huawei, and the United States said it’s not going to happen.”
Pence on Friday said Biden had “dropped the ball” on China. Still, he said the U.S. should not seek to decouple from the country despite the threat it posed.
“We have to recognize that China’s the greatest economic and strategic threat of the United States of America,” Pence said, but added, “I think using access to the most powerful economy in the world, the United States of America, is a means of having China end decades of trade abuses, end intellectual property thefts, stop their military provocations, and end the human rights abuses.”
Pence said his speech on Monday would be focused on “giving China an opportunity to join the family of nations and respect the international rules of the road as I like to say.”
“The other piece of this, I believe in free trade with free nations,” Pence said. “We ought to be working on a free trade agreement with Japan. We ought to be looking to strengthen trading relationships with free nations across the Asia Pacific.”