Douyin — China’s TikTok — Said to be Banning Cantonese Speakers

Sam Reynolds

This is not investment advice. The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. has a disclosure and ethics policy.

As TikTok is a hit in the West, Douyin is equally popular within China, as a source of lip-sync videos, memes, and comedy. But it's now alleged that within China, Douyin is suppressing videos that feature the Cantonese language — which is in line with Beijing's policy of suppressing it in favor of promoting Mandarin.

Douyin's alleged banning of the Cantonese language on its platform is significant because it reinforces the idea of close ties between Beijing and the company. Beijing has long had a policy to suppress Cantonese within China, as it sees it as an erosion of its hegemonic vision of cultural and linguistic harmony. For instance, officially, Mandarin is known as Putonghua, or "common language", this is the preferred term of Beijing as it emphasizes unity.

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Cantonese is primarily spoken in China's southern province of Guangzhou and the quasi-independent city of Hong Kong. The language itself is mutually unintelligible with Mandarin; while they share a similar character set, Cantonese has its own vocabulary and with it a rich library of idioms, slang, puns and vulgarity that are unfamiliar to a speaker of Mandarin. Cantonese is a defining characteristic of Hong Kong's unique culture and identity. It defines Hong Kong as much as its traditions of a free market and independent judiciary, passed on from the British; Canto-Pop and Hong Kong cinema, a global phenomenon long before Korea became the cultural export giant, are also a pillar of the Cantonese identity.

As Stephen Vines wrote in the South China Morning Post in 2010:

Like other languages, Cantonese provides an identity for the society it serves. It reinforces the regional differences and is attached to a rich cultural history that cannot simply be expunged by edict. Moreover, because of the intense tradition of emigration from the south of the country, Cantonese has become the effective lingua franca of much of the Chinese diaspora and has developed a life of its own outside China.

And, of course, Cantonese enhances a sense of identity. It is this that scares the rulers in Beijing; officials across the border are already accusing the defenders of Cantonese of having 'ulterior motives'.

Anyone challenging this process is quickly labelled a 'splittist' in the wonderful language of Maoism. This is a serious charge and is thrown about indiscriminately at both those who genuinely desire to split from Beijing, such as Tibetans, and at others who are happy to be in the Chinese state but seek a stronger sense of local identity.

As Hong Kong's institutionalized liberties are eroded as 2047 ticks closer, so too is its Cantonese heritage. The city's last few Chief Executives were notoriously Beijing-friendly, and the region has an official policy of encouraging immigration from Mainland China. The majority of schools in Hong Kong now use Mandarin as a primary language of instruction, which has caused a cultural clash between the 'Cantonese Hong Kong', which seeks to preserve its identity, and a new China-focused Hong Kong which prefers to eschew the city's identity for closer ties with the Mainland.

TikTok is looking to shed its image that its a Chinese Trojan Horse in order to win favour from US lawmakers. The company initially came to their attention because of its $1 billion acquisition of Los Angeles-based -- which was re-branded as TikTok -- back in 2017. The company claims that it firewalls its US version, TikTok, from the Chinese side and protects the data of US users from Beijing, but it makes no promises like that for its Chinese users.

News Source: David Paulk - Twitter

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