juicy meat #3: Alone with Vladimir Putin on TikTok

“juicy meat” is an ongoing series analyzing media content. This instalment reflects on Vladimir Putin’s TikTok presence.

Vladimir Putin on TikTok
Putin on TikTok in a Tweet within another Tweet

Putins In My Hand Thanks to China

I’ve got a new Twitter account that only follows two people: Elon Musk and a Canadian journalist. Since my timeline would be boring otherwise, Twitter crams it with topical Tweets and other filler. Yesterday I logged on and was served the above Tweet. In the Tweet a finance influencer “quote Tweets” an anonymous account that posted a TikTok video. In it, Vladimir Putin faces the camera and talks about the global financial system and the supposed diminished standing of the US Dollar.

Curious about the TikTok account that originally posted the clip, I opened the app and navigated to @president.putin.fanpage. The page has over 900,000 followers and features flattering snippets of the Russian president. More recent clips are of the straight-to-camera public statement genre and almost mimic selfie-video, partly because they are on TikTok. One thumbnail preview displays the caption “I want ordinary Western people [to] hear me”.

None of this is particularly revelatory and this is not a mis/disinfo scare-post. A few fairly obvious things are still worth noting, however. The account has a huge following but doesn’t interact at all and there’s no public manager (added context: the “bio” says it’s not an official page). Since it seems to be a simple matter of adding english captions to highlights of pre-existing video clips, occasionally with bare minimum contextualization, the account’s propaganda value to resources expended ratio is incredible. Many of the videos have millions of views.

Another thing worth noting is that TikTok is a Chinese-owned application. There’s endless talk in the current moment about Chinese-Russian relations and a Chinese firm facilitating the distribution of Russian propaganda to Western palms and eyeballs during a hot conflict seems novel.

To sum up: by logging in to a fresh Twitter account and following Elon Musk as well as the “Business and finance” vertical my attention was directed at a Putin-propaganda effort to undermine confidence in the USA financial system that bore the watermark of a Chinese-owned platform. In an unpredictable smartphone and social media instant you can end up face-to-face with a major political figure’s fount of massaged information. As far as Russia and China, it’s surprising that all this is tolerated, to the extent that it is, by the Western establishment.

China, global trade, finance and the “Internet of Things”

“The real threat to American financial hegemony comes not from the digital currency as such, but from the integration of so-called smart logistics and the ‘Internet of Things.’ China is racing to lead a revolution in transport and warehousing that will allow counter parties to track all goods at every stage of production and shipment around the world, making global supply chains transparent. This will drastically reduce the banking system’s role as intermediary and shrink the working capital required for trade.”

“Chips that cost a few cents to produce will be embedded in every traded product and communicate in real time with servers that direct them to automated warehouses, driverless trucks, digitally-controlled ports, and ultimately to end users. Artificial Intelligence will direct goods to the cheapest and fastest transport and allow buyers to find the cheapest prices. 5G communications between servers and goods will verify the production, transit, and storage status of trillions of items in trade. The working capital required for transactions in international trade will shrink.”

“…China is several years ahead of the United States in deploying 5G networks and building out the manufacturing and logistics technology that 5G enables. The technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, moreover, may give China a degree of influence in huge swaths of the world unimaginable within the framework of existing industrial organization. Billions of people in the developing world live on the margins of the global economy, working subsistence plots, engaging in petty commerce, with little access to information, education, medical care, and social services. Cheap mobile broadband is connecting them to the world market, integrating them into what Huawei calls its ‘ecosystem’ of telecommunications, e-commerce, e-finance, telemedicine, and smart agriculture. . . . China tore out traditional society at the grass roots and urbanized 600 million people during the past 35 years, and it believes that it can integrate billions more into its virtual empire during the next decade.”