Pro-TikTok Ads Cite Firm Used By Chinese Tech Company Huawei in Its Own Ad Blitz

TikTok and Huawei use stats produced by Oxford Economics in campaigns to assuage national security concerns

(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
April 10, 2024

Pro-TikTok advertisements are citing statistics produced by a firm that Chinese tech company Huawei enlisted in its own advertising blitz, photographs reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show.

TikTok advertisements touting the company's economic prowess seen at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., claim that TikTok "contributed $24 [billion] to the U.S. economy in 2023 alone." The billboard, in a disclosure at the bottom, attributes these statistics to Oxford Economics, an advisory firm Huawei tapped in 2019 to study the impact of restricting the CCP-controlled technology firm’s access to Western markets.

Both Huawei and TikTok are deemed national security threats by the U.S. government, and the latter is waging a multi-pronged public opinion campaign to pressure Congress into abandoning a bill that would restrict its operations in America unless its Chinese owner ByteDance divests from the company.

Communist-controlled media outlets and CCP government organs have leveraged Oxford Economics’ research to discredit attempts by Western governments, including the United States, to regulate Huawei’s access to their technology infrastructure. The firm’s research is helping Huawei and TikTok shape public opinion and fight back against mounting concerns the tech giants help the Communist government collect personal data on scores of Westerners, experts say.

"Oxford Economics has repeatedly produced reports that Chinese state media then leverages for its own geopolitical ambitions," Michael Sobolik, a China expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, told the Free Beacon. "They did this with Huawei in 2019 and 2020, and they’re doing it again with TikTok today. Washington should view TikTok's PR campaign with healthy skepticism."

Oxford Economics formed a relationship with TikTok in 2023, when the social media company collaborated with it on an economic impact assessment related to its presence in the United States. Those findings, produced "in collaboration with TikTok," were published in March and appear to form the anchor of the current public relations blitz aimed at softening growing opposition to the social media company.

A January 2024 Oxford Economics study "commissioned by TikTok" studied the socioeconomic impact of the app on five European countries.

An Oxford Economics spokesman confirmed that TikTok commissioned the company to furnish a report quantifying "the economic impact of small businesses using TikTok in the United States." The spokesman would not provide additional information. TikTok did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment on the nature of their relationship with Oxford Economics.

The data analysis firm’s work with Huawei dates back to at least 2019, when it was commissioned by the Chinese technology giant to "assess the economic costs of restricting competition in eight markets."

The study came as several countries, including the United States, were restricting Huawei’s access to their most critical online networks, citing concerns the Communist government uses the company’s technology to conduct espionage operations.

The 2019 report was later cited by Chinese-controlled media outlets and other propaganda organs to push back on Western concerns about Huawei. This included a reference to the Oxford Economics study in a report authored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), an alleged CCP front group operating in the United States. The study also was promoted in Xinhua, a CCP state media outlet, and China Daily, another propaganda outlet.

In 2021, Chinese propaganda outlet Global Times referenced an Oxford Economics report about the economic impact of the United States severing its economic ties with China.

Sobolik said the TikTok advertising campaign employs similar tactics to the one waged by Huawei in 2019 and later.

"TikTok is the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful tool to degrade America’s democracy, so it’s no surprise that Beijing is doing everything it can to maintain its control over the app," said Sobilik, author of Countering China’s Great Game. "That said, TikTok isn’t covering its tracks well."