TikTok under fire in Washington
TikTok has come to represent the growing divide between the U.S. and China over tech leadership and national security. The app, which has 150 million users in the U.S., has become a battleground in a technological cold war between the two countries, and yesterday U.S. lawmakers blasted Shou Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, for more than five hours.
During the heated hearing, Democratic and Republican lawmakers were united in grilling Chew and accused TikTok of keeping ties to the Chinese government and harming teenage users’ mental health.
Chew tried to downplay the app’s links to ByteDance, its Chinese owner. He told lawmakers about TikTok’s plan to store American users’ data on U.S. soil and said the app didn’t censor posts at China’s behest. But his testimony did not appear to calm lawmakers’ fears.
The risks: China’s authoritarian government has sweeping control over tech companies and their data. ByteDance employees have obtained American users’ private data and spied on journalists. But U.S. officials have not declassified any evidence demonstrating a current risk of TikTok’s handing data from users’ phones to the Chinese government.
What’s next: The threat of a ban looms if ByteDance refuses to sell the app. Yesterday, China said it would oppose U.S. efforts to force a sale. That limits President Biden’s options, but three bills targeting TikTok are making their way through Congress.
Analysis: “This hearing feels to me like a potential turning point in terms of the scrutiny that Chinese companies receive in the United States,” my colleague Ana Swanson wrote. “We’ve been hearing for years about a decoupling between the United States and China, but it’s really just begun.”
The cost of rebuilding Ukraine
The World Bank said in a new estimate that it would take at least $411 billion to rebuild the country over 10 years. The news came as E.U. leaders approved plans to give Ukraine a million artillery shells over the next 12 months to help Ukrainians defend themselves against an intensified Russian assault in the east.
The World Bank figure is a substantial increase from its $349 billion estimate in September. Since then, Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure. It’s also a lowball: The cost of reconstruction will grow as fighting continues.
As the war grinds on, Ukraine is going through shells faster than the West can produce or supply them. The E.U. will spend up to 2 billion euros, or $2.14 billion, to supply Ukraine with shells, replenish its own national stocks and ramp up Europe’s ammunition production.
Other news about the war:
A court in Gujarat, Modi’s home state, convicted Gandhi in connection with a 2019 speech in which he linked the prime minister’s family name to that of Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi, two fugitives who were accused of swindling millions of dollars. “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common name?” Gandhi said.
Gandhi was immediately granted 30 days’ bail. His party, the Indian National Congress, said he would appeal.
Context: Critics have accused Modi of using the law to stymie political critics, including journalists, nonprofits and media companies. His government recently arrested another member of Gandhi’s party who mocked Modi and an opposition leader on corruption charges.
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Japan needs cleaner ways of generating power. It’s thought to be sitting atop the third-largest geothermal resources in the world, but it converts just a tiny fraction of the cheap and clean energy source to electricity.
For decades, new plants have been blocked by powerful local interests: the owners of hot spring resorts, who say the sites threaten a centuries-old tradition.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The fair is part of Hong Kong’s continued effort to position itself as an international art hub. The city opened the contemporary art museum M+ in 2021 and the Palace Museum in 2022, promoting its prowess and significance on the global art scene.
During the pandemic, its self-imposed isolation became an unexpected boon to its art scene, as new galleries — many focused on local artists — sprang up all over town. “We’re finally coming out of our long-term quarantine,” a dealer said. “It’s a huge relief.”
Art Basel Hong Kong comes just months after the successful first edition of Frieze Seoul, which took place in September and attracted more than 70,000 visitors. The dual fairs are part of a “rising tide” across Asia, the chief executive of Art Basel said. “Frieze helped turn a lot of eyes to Asia,” he said. “All these things underline that Asia is a huge part of our business.”
Details: Art Basel Hong Kong runs through tomorrow. If you’re visiting, here are some tips from Hong Kong locals on things to do, eat and see.)
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A programming note: I’ll be back in two weeks. You’ll be in good hands with my colleagues Mariah Kreutter and Daniel Slotnik. Have a lovely end of March, and see you in early April.
That’s it for today’s briefing. I hope you have a lovely weekend. — Amelia
P.S. After three years, The Times is switching to C.D.C. Covid data, ending our daily Covid data collection.
On “The Daily,” our former film critic reflects on American cinema.
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