China says it would “firmly oppose” any forced sale of TikTok in order to avoid a nationwide ban in the U.S.
This is the first time that the Chinese government has directly commented on demands by the Biden administration that TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance sell its stake in the app or face a ban across the country.
CNN reports that on Thursday, China’s commerce ministry stated that a forced sale of TikTok would “seriously damage” global investors’ confidence in the U.S.
“If the news [about a forced sale] is true, China will firmly oppose it,” Shu Jueting, a spokeswoman for the ministry, tells a news conference in Beijing.
Jueting also says that any potential deal with ByteDance would need approval from the Chinese government.
“The sale or divestiture of TikTok involves technology export, and administrative licensing procedures must be performed in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations,” Jueting says.
“The Chinese government will make a decision in accordance with the law.”
‘Not An Agent of China’
On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared for the first time before U.S. Congress in a bid to convince lawmakers and intelligence officials in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the app is safe and that it should not be banned.
The U.S. is TikTok’s most important market and the app currently has 150 million American users.
Chew sought to reassure Congress that the Chinese-owned video app is not a “tool” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and poses no risk to national security.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew says.
However, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee found the TikTok CEO’s answers evasive — with Representative Anna Eshoo accusing Chew of “sidestepping” questions about the Chinese government having access to U.S. data.
Chew responded that the Chinese government had not “asked us” for access to U.S. data.
Federal officials are concerned that American user data on TikTok could fall into the hands of the Chinese government, due to a law in China that compels firms to hand over information to Beijing if they are requested to do so.
TikTok has repeatedly stated that U.S. user data is not stored in China where those laws apply. And the company has sought to assure U.S. lawmakers that American user data is safe.
Last year, the company agreed to implement several measures to address U.S. officials’ security concerns including “Project Texas” — which involves bringing in American tech giant Oracle Corp to host U.S. user data and review its software.
However, TikTok’s proposals have so far not assuaged U.S. regulators’ concerns and a nationwide ban is increasingly looking like a very real possibility.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.