China's opposition to TikTok sale complicates the picture -- and relations with the US

Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

The latest U.S.-China clash over the popular social media app TikTok is likely to worsen the already-deteriorating relationship between the two countries, as Beijing and Washington tussle over software bans, technology exports and concerns about espionage and national security.

Last week, the Biden administration renewed Trump-era efforts to allay security concerns about TikTok, created by Chinese tech giant Bytedance Ltd., by demanding that the wildly popular app be sold from Chinese ownership or face a possible ban in the U.S. On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew underwent a bipartisan grilling by a House committee whose members asked pointed questions about data security, alleged racial bias toward content creators and the platform's mental health effects.

The Chinese government, which is intent on turning homegrown tech companies into world champions, has said it would oppose any sale of TikTok.

Here's where the dispute stands.

How is China responding?

Hours before Chew began his testimony before the congressional committee Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Shu Jueting said China resolutely opposed demands from U.S. officials that TikTok be sold, adding that any change in ownership would need to comply with Chinese regulations.


A forced sale "will seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including China, in investing in the U.S.," Shu said.

In Chinese state and social media, commentators criticized U.S. lawmakers for biased statements and questions at Chew's hearing. Others dismissed the event as political theater, or accused the U.S. of trying to steal the technology that powers TikTok's addictive short-video recommendations.

Last week, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the U.S. has no evidence that TikTok is a threat to national security and should stop discriminating against foreign businesses.

"China has always maintained that the issue of data security should not be used as a tool for certain countries to generalize the concept of national security and abuse state power to suppress other countries' companies unreasonably," Wang said.


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