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Short-form video app TikTok doesn’t seem — at least at first glance — like the sort of social media platform that would find itself in the middle of geopolitical drama. In Japan, the platform typically allows teens to create dances, gives space for celebrities to take part in challenges and offers the truly ambitious the chance to turn the goofiest schtick into viral gold.

What appears at first sight like a solid way to kill some spare time, however, has morphed into a diplomatic flash point. First, India banned it, citing security concerns related to user data being harvested by ByteDance, the Chinese-owned company behind TikTok. It’s a mix of legitimate concern and political theater as China expands its power globally. U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that he might impose similar restrictions.

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