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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American consumers are quite familiar with many of the big-name foreign products — Toyota, Samsung, to name a couple — but brands from China are virtually invisible.

The big picture: Chinese companies doing business in the U.S. are doing their best to hide where they come from. If they're not actively masking their home country, they're certainly not leading with it.

Driving the news: The first publicly Chinese-owned company to make its way into the minds and hearts of American consumers is TikTok. And it’s dealing with headache after headache due to its China ties.

  • The viral social video-sharing app has been downloaded about 80 million times in the U.S., and its skyrocketing popularity has made it the target of a federal probe.
  • TikTok, which is based in the U.S., is desperately trying to distance itself from Bytedance, its Chinese owner. CEO Alex Zhu told the New York Times he'd go as far as to reject a user data request from Chinese President Xi Jinping himself.

Chinese brands have been trying to fly under the radar for years.

  • Take Volvo, one of the most prominent Chinese-owned brands to crack the U.S. market. Volvo is a Swedish subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely. But how many Americans who buy a Volvo think they're buying a Chinese car?
  • Other Chinese brands hiding in plain sight include TCL, the hardware giant that sells in the U.S. under the names of Alcatel and Blackberry, and Lenovo, notes Axios' Ina Fried.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

AOC and Ilhan Omar want to block Biden’s former chief of staff

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are boosting a petition against Joe Biden nominating his former chief of staff to a new role in his administration, calling Bruce Reed a "deficit hawk."

Why it matters: Progressives are mounting their pressure campaign after the president-elect did not include any of their favored candidates in his first slate of Cabinet nominees, and they are serious about installing some of their allies, blocking anyone who doesn't pass their smell test — and making noise if they are not heard.

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Biden introduces top national security team

President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Tuesday at an event introducing the incoming administration's top national security officials, where he told the story of his stepfather being the only one of 900 children at his school in Poland to survive the Holocaust.

What they're saying: "At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the iron cross, he saw painted on its side a five pointed white star," Blinken said.