(March 23): China would firmly oppose any sale of TikTok forced by Washington, its Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said hours before the app’s leader goes to testify before the US Congress.
Forcing the owner to sell TikTok’s US operations would “seriously undermine the confidence of investors from all countries including China to invest in the US”, Shu Jueting of the Chinese ministry told reporters at a briefing on Thursday (March 23). TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd, which US lawmakers have argued cannot be trusted with the personal data of American users.
Any TikTok sale or spin-off would amount to a technology export, and would have to adhere to Chinese law and administrative approvals, Shu added. “The Chinese government will make decisions according to the law.”
TikTok chief executive officer Shou Chew is set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. He’s expected to address a slew of issues including kids’ mental health and allegations that TikTok could be used to spy on Americans or to push Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
At stake is TikTok’s most lucrative market — the app doesn’t operate at home in China, where ByteDance runs sister app Douyin, and it’s banned in India — and indications ahead of the testimony are that the legislators are unlikely to be swayed. Many of the arguments that Chew plans to present are also reiterations of points the company has raised in the past.
The US has told TikTok’s owners in China to sell up or risk a ban of the popular video-sharing app, Bloomberg has reported, marking a major escalation in the long-running stand-off over privacy concerns around Chinese control of its data and algorithm.
Separately, Shu urged the US to ease curbs on exports to China, and remove trade restrictions on Chinese companies in order to help make bilateral trade more balanced.
She also called on Washington to remove all additional tariffs on the Asian country as soon as possible, in response to a question suggesting US importers bore almost the entire burden of the punitive levies placed on Chinese goods during Donald Trump’s presidency.