The Chinese government is in opposition of any forced sale of U.S.-based operations of TikTok, and would rather shut the app down entirely in the U.S. than see TikTok’s owner ByteDance backed into a deal, according to Reuters Friday.
Reuters reported based on anonymous sourcing that “Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington, the sources said.”
President Trump previously took the unprecedented step of signing an executive order to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. if ownership of the company’s U.S. assets are not sold to an American-owned company by mid-September. Officials in the U.S. have criticized the app, which is immensely popular among younger millennials and Gen Z users — saying that TikTok collects too much user data and may be passing that data on American consumers back to the Chinese government.
Trump has even said that he believes the U.S. government should receive a cut of whatever agreement is eventually made to sell TikTok’s American assets, a move that tech experts say could set a dangerous precedent for future international tech deals.
At a routine briefing in Beijing Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan likened President Trump’s demands to robbery. “Forced transactions by the government,” Zhao said, “violates market principles and international rules, and reveals the irony when the U.S. claims to be a champion of market economy and fair competition.”
In an attempt to take back some autonomy in the sale process, the Chinese government began revising a list of technologies that would need government approval before being exported or sold to a foreign nation — and TikTok’s proprietary recommendation algorithm is one piece of tech included in that list.
Numerous U.S.-based technology companies have queued up to express interest in buying TikTok, including Microsoft, Oracle, Walmart and competing social video app Triller. As the president’s deadline looms, each of these companies appears to be far from cutting a deal.