TikTok’s Singaporean CEO Chew Shou Zi was grilled about his ties with China during a Congress session about the dangers children face on social media platforms on Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024. US senator John Cotton repeatedly asked Mr Chew if he had ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party, to which he responded, “Senator, I’m Singaporean. No.”
Partly due to his aggressive and mostly baseless line of questioning, many critics have begun to compare Sen. Tom Cotton’s interrogation to McCarthyism.
McCarthyism was a period of intense anti-communist suspicion and persecution in the United States from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. It was named after Senator Joseph McCarthy, who led a series of investigations and hearings to expose alleged communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government and society. Many people were accused of being communists or sympathizers, often without proper evidence or due process, and faced harassment, loss of jobs, or blacklisting.
The comparison between Sen. Tom Cotton’s questioning of TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew and McCarthyism is based on the perception that Cotton was trying to expose Chew as a potential agent of the Chinese Communist Party, without any evidence or relevance to the topic of the hearing.
Critics of Cotton’s line of questioning have argued that it was ignorant, racist, or xenophobic, as he repeatedly asked Chew about his nationality, citizenship, and political affiliation, even after Chew clarified that he was a Singaporean citizen with no ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Some also pointed out that Cotton did not ask similar questions to the other CEOs who testified at the hearing, who were mostly white and American. They suggested that Cotton was implying that Chew’s ethnicity or appearance made him suspect of being loyal to China, regardless of his actual background or identity.
However, defenders of Cotton’s approach have claimed that he was justified in probing Chew’s potential connections to China, given that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, and that China could be exerting its influence and pressure on its overseas citizens and businesses. They argued that Cotton was doing his duty as a senator to protect the national security and interests of the United States, and that he was not motivated by any personal or racial bias against Chew.
After watching the short (48 seconds) video above, my question to you “Is it fair to compare Senator Cotton to McCarthyism?”