There's also a question about Trump's ability to force a sale. "I don't see how they could force ByteDance to do anything like this, because it's a Chinese company," Holstein said. "Although they could block it from the American market, using the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. as the tool." The committee is a federal interagency group that reviews foreign investments and other transactions for national security implications.
Justin Sherman, a fellow with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said the Trump administration still has not laid out a clear justification for why TikTok should undergo a forced sale, with the Committee on Foreign Investment continuing to investigate. The argument for Grindr to lose its Chinese owners was outlined more clearly, Sherman said.
Ironically, a rushed sale to Microsoft or another buyer may be a sign any national security concerns around TikTok were overblown, said Stapp, noting that the Chinese government would have to sign off on the deal.
"The risk here is that the U.S. eventually bans TikTok almost permanently, and then that asset goes to zero, destroying $50 billion," Stapp said. "It's a bad economic outcome."
But if the Chinese government were relying on "geopolitical considerations," he said, TikTok's owner "wouldn't be seriously considering selling right now."
(Times staff writer Wendy Lee contributed to this report.)
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