China outraged over Trump's TikTok 'smash and grab'

Yolanda Curtis
August 4, 2020

China accused the United States on Tuesday of "outright bullying" over popular video app TikTok, after President Donald Trump ramped up pressure for its USA operations to be sold to an American company.

The White House has said it's concerned that TikTok's parent company, ByteDance Ltd., could be compelled to hand over American users' data to Beijing or use the app to influence the 165 million Americans, and more than 2 billion users globally, who have downloaded it.

Why it matters: Navarro, a fervent China hawk, is among the voices shaping White House policy on TikTok, which President Trump said Monday must be sold by September 15 in order to avoid a USA ban.

"I actually understand (the criticism)", Zhang said in the letter.

U.S. tech giant Microsoft is an advanced discussion to buy the popular video app from ByteDance subject to security review.

He told staff to "anticipate more difficulties in the future" and said anti-China sentiment has recently "risen significantly in many countries".

Media captionWill TikTok be banned? But the United States should be reimbursed, or should be paid a substantial amount of money because without the United States they don't have anything, at least having to do with the 30 per cent.

FILE - Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019.

But TikTok's Chinese ownership has raised concern about the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials as well as censorship of videos critical of the Chinese government.

Responding to a question from TechCrunch, Trump said he thinks a deal to reimburse the U.S. should be made as TikTok is "a great asset" for Microsoft, but only if the company has the approval of the US.

But MIT Technology Review reporter, Charlotte Jee, slammed Trump's comments as "pretty astonishing" and said his "extraordinary behaviour" was a major reversal in his administration's push to scrutinise Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) and other big tech firms in the US.

The US and China have clashed over various fronts recently, essentially barring Chinese telecoms company Huawei from the US market and waging a global campaign to isolate the company over national security concerns. Over the weekend, it said in a statement that it did "not intend to provide further updates until there is a definitive outcome to our discussions" with TikTok.

Zhang emphasized again that TikTok is a privately run business.

"In light of the current situation, ByteDance has been evaluating the possibility of establishing TikTok's headquarters outside of the USA, to better serve our global users", the company said. "Additionally, we know companies like Shenzhen Hawk, a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate, TCL, develop and offer apps with spyware and malware created to harvest user data and send it back to China", the leaders wrote.

"It's got to be an American's got to be owned here", Trump said.

The debate over TikTok parallels a broader USA security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE.

The President's requirement that some of the money from the deal go to the U.S. Treasury doesn't have a basis in antitrust law, according to Gene Kimmelman, a former chief counsel for the US Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and now a senior adviser to the policy group Public Knowledge.

"A USA company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe", he said in a tweet, "With TikTok in China, it's subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government".

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