TechScape: suspicious of TikTok? You’re not alone

What’s the problem with TikTok? It’s a harder question to answer than it seems. The social video app, which has joined Facebook/Instagram, YouTube and Twitter in the list of societally important social networks, is frequently spoken about with an air of suspicion, and it’s not hard to guess why: the app’s Chinese roots loom large in the conversation. (ByteDance, which owns TikTok, insists that it is headquartered in the Cayman Islands, one of the only instances I’ve seen of a company deciding that loudly proclaiming its paper HQ is located…

Britain’s electric dreams will never come true while China has a materials advantage | John Naughton

In his book Electrify: An Optimist’s Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future, Saul Griffith, an American inventor, entrepreneur and engineer, sets out a plan for decarbonising the US: electrify everything. From now on, every time people replace a vehicle or renovate a building or buy an appliance, they should be buying electric. Every new roof must have solar panels, all new housing must be energy efficient and shouldn’t contain a gas cooker. All that’s required to make this happen is a collective national effort comparable to the mobilisation of the…

FBI and MI5 leaders give unprecedented joint warning on Chinese spying

The head of the FBI and the leader of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency have delivered an unprecedented joint address raising fresh alarm about the Chinese government, warning business leaders that Beijing is determined to steal their technology for competitive gain. In a speech at MI5’s London headquarters intended as a show of western solidarity, Christopher Wray, the FBI director, stood alongside the MI5 director general, Ken McCallum. Wray reaffirmed longstanding concerns about economic espionage and hacking operations by China, as well as the Chinese government’s efforts to stifle dissent abroad.…

How TikTok is turning a generation of video addicts into a data goldmine

Question: what do men and Excel have in common? Answer: they’re always automatically turning things into dates when they’re not. To younger people – that is, anyone under the age of 20 – Microsoft’s spreadsheet program, a tool as essential to accountants as saws are to carpenters, is the contemporary equivalent of mom jeans, handwritten thank-you notes and cravats: stuff that oldies care about. How come, then, that the hashtag #excel has had 3.4bn views on a certain social media platform and that one Excel expert on that platform has…

China carries out anti-missile tests amid opposition to US systems in South Korea

China carried out a test of “ground-based midcourse anti-missile intercept technology” that “achieved its expected purpose”, the defence ministry in Beijing has said, describing it as defensive and not aimed at any country. Beijing has tested missile interceptors before; the most recent previous public announcement of a test was in February 2021, and before that in 2018. State media has said China has conducted anti-missile system tests since at least 2010. China has been ramping up research into all sorts of missiles, from those that can destroy satellites in space…

‘Oh my God, buy it!’ China’s livestream shopping stars risk being censored

Hua Shao stands knee-deep in water at the edge of the sea, behind a table piled high with large crabs. The famous Chinese TV host is sweaty, sunburnt and laughing with a co-host as a red-and-blue fishing boat bobs behind them. “The sea-ears taste so good, it must have been collected from a sea area where the water is very clear,” he tells more than 100,000 people who are watching online. It’s the eve of “618”, one of China’s biggest retail festivals, which are increasingly driven by the weird world…

TikTok moves to ease fears amid report workers in China accessed US users’ data

TikTok has said that Oracle will store all the data from its US users, in a bid to allay fears about its safety in the hands of a platform owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The move comes as a report from BuzzFeed news, citing leaked audio from TikTok in-house meetings, said ByteDance employees in China have repeatedly accessed private information about US TikTok users. The popular video snippet sharing service has fended off concerns about the ability of engineers in China to access information about US users that isn’t…

Elon Musk praises Chinese workers for ‘burning the 3am oil’ – here’s what that really looks like

How do you become the richest man in the world? In Elon Musk’s case, part of it involves making workers in China put in hours that would be unacceptable according to labor norms elsewhere. On Tuesday, the Tesla boss praised Chinese factory workers for pulling extreme hours while taking a shot at American workers. “There is just a lot of super talented hardworking people in China who strongly believe in manufacturing,” the billionaire said. “They won’t just be burning the midnight oil, they will be burning the 3am oil, they…

Elon, Twitter is not the town square – it’s just a private shop. The square belongs to us all | John Naughton

On Friday 8 January 2021, Twitter kicked Donald Trump off its platform and an eerie calm enveloped parts of our global public sphere. Depriving him of his online megaphone was a compelling demonstration of how a tech platform had acquired an awesome power – the ability effectively to silence an elected president. But what kind of power is it really? Many years ago, in a landmark book, Power: A Radical View, the sociologist Steven Lukes wrote that power comes in three varieties: the ability to stop people doing what they…

iPhone maker Pegatron halts Shanghai production due to Covid lockdown

Key iPhone maker Pegatron has halted operations at two subsidiaries in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Kunshan, as global supply chains feel the pinch of Beijing’s strict zero-Covid measures. The business hub of Shanghai has become the heart of China’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak since the virus surfaced more than two years ago. The city of 25 million has remained almost entirely locked down since the start of the month. “We have temporarily suspended work,” said Pegatron in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The Taiwanese firm…