China says it will firmly oppose the forced sale of TikTok
China has said it will oppose US efforts to force the sale of TikTok, in a public rebuke of the Biden administration’s stance against Chinese ownership of the app.
The comments, made by China’s Commerce Ministry on Thursday, came hours before TikTok’s chief executive will testify before Congress for the first time, addressing US lawmakers’ mistrust of handling user data. Americans by the popular short-form video app.
A Commerce Ministry spokeswoman told a press conference that China would “strongly oppose” the sale of the app. Forcing such a transaction would “seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States,” she added.
Last week, news emerged that the Biden administration wanted TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell the app or face a possible ban. The ultimatum came after negotiations between the White House and TikTok ownership over a less severe compromise.
US lawmakers and regulators fear that the Chinese government’s broad power over the country’s private companies could give authorities in Beijing access to US user data.
The Ministry of Commerce said any sale involving the export of technology must comply with Chinese laws. Beijing has been mulling rules to protect China’s prized tech from export, and TikTok’s most valuable tech, analysts say, is its recommendations algorithm.
TikTok introduced a proposal last year, called Project Texas, to assuage national security concerns. TikTok would remain owned by ByteDance, but put all US user-generated data on national servers operated and managed by Oracle, the software giant in Austin, Texas. Only Oracle and TikTok employees based in the United States would have access to US user accounts and data, TikTok said.
Mr. Chew is expected to continue promoting the plan in his testimony before Congress, where lawmakers are expected to ask him tough questions about the company’s efforts to secure US user data, its ties to its Chinese parent company and the risks that the application can pose for teenagers and children.
In his written testimony before the hearing, Mr. Chew said that ByteDance is a global company owned by international investors as well as employees. “Let me say this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” he said.
TikTok and ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.