‘Everything Has a Connection to the Communist Party’: Stilwell on TikTok

In this special episode, we sat down with David Stilwell, retired brigadier general and former assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He sheds light on the TikTok hearing, whether it’s for entertainment or for warfare, and how to understand the Chinese Communist Party more broadly.

On the TikTok hearing’s importance, Stilwell noted, “It’s a juxtaposition of our wide open, democratic system being abused by a communist, controlling, authoritarian system.”

“They have full access to all our information, our people. TikTok was a great stalking horse. I mean, give them credit. It was a great idea, and they created something that is truly addictive. And then finally, these people all claim not to have direct connections with the Communist Party? But it doesn’t take much scratching to see that they do. So the congressional attention is very welcome. … It started with Sen. Ted Cruz in October of 2021, actually, when this idea first came up, a year and a half ago, and he had the American face of TikTok in front of him. The guy would not answer his questions, extremely evasive. Clearly, there’s more going on,” he added.

As for TikTok’s promises to shore up security, Stilwell noted: “Forty years, we believed everything the PRC said. We took it at face value, we wanted to believe that they were being square, upright, forthright, honest. I think the pandemic went a long way to making us second guess that. No human-human transmission? Of course there was. … It was out of control.”

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