ByteDance CEO: No final decision yet on offer to sell TikTok’s U.S. business

“We don’t agree with the decision (selling TikTok’s U.S. business), because we have always adhered to protecting users’ data and maintaining the platform’s neutrality and transparency,” said Zhang Yiming, founder and ByteDance CEO, in an internal company letter on Monday.

ByteDance CEO: No final decision yet on offer to sell TikTok's U.S. business

“We have not reached a final solution yet,” Zhang added.

“But considering the current international environment, we have to face the U.S. president’s executive order to ban TikTok and the decision of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), meanwhile we won’t give up on any possibilities,” Zhang wrote in the letter.

This comes a day after Microsoft Corp said it would continue discussions to acquire popular short-video app TikTok from Chinese internet giant ByteDance CEO and that it was aiming to conclude the negotiations by September 15. Trump also said on Sunday that he will give Microsoft and TikTok 45 days to secure a deal.

Zhang revealed that for the past year, the company has been actively cooperating with CFIUS on its investigation into ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017.

“Although we have repeatedly emphasized that we are a private company, and we are willing to offer more technological solutions to eradicate their concerns, the CFIUS still demands that ByteDance CEO must sell TikTok’s U.S. business,” Zhang said.

The Trump administration suspects that because of TikTok’s connection to China, the company could be collecting data in the U.S. and sharing it with the Chinese government.

The company has repeatedly denied these accusations, assuring the Trump administration that their data is stored in the U.S. and offering to disclose TikTok’s algorithms, moderation policies and data flows to U.S. regulators.

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Microsoft said its chief executive Satya Nadella had a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump to address the latter’s concerns over the acquisition.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Trump threatened on Friday to ban the popular app from operating in the United States. Reuters on Saturday said that ByteDance CEO had agreed to completely divest TikTok’s U.S. operations, where it would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over, citing sources.

Trump’s TikTok threats are typical ‘Art of the Deal’ tactics

On the evening of July 31, while aboard Air Force One, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he was banning TikTok via executive order. Although he did not give the details, the comments come amid repeated speculation in the media that the company is in talks with tech giant Microsoft to divest its U.S. operations.

Later, on August 1, Reuters claimed that a deal had been reached, although its details are scant and still developing. While TikTok’s official stance is that it does not comment on rumors, its CEO, Kevin Mayer, however, was more upbeat, insisting that the application was “here to stay.”

Irrespective of the outcome, one point stands: The White House has effectively bullied another Chinese technology company out of the American market on premises that are dubious at best and unproven.

While it should be noted that Trump’s push for an outright ban is likely to be a negotiating tactic, the idea that a children’s video application is somehow a threat to national security is opportunistic at best and at worst laughable.

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Despite a Congressional hearing just days ago on the so-called vices of U.S. big tech dominating the market, it is quite obvious that the Trump administration is seeking to maintain the absolute monopoly of American technology companies within world markets at all costs.

If a firm is associated with China, they are simply guilty as charged.

In reporting the TikTok saga, mainstream media news outlets such as the BBC have been too happy and too eager to present the U.S. narrative on the application as sincere, repeatedly stating that officials in the country expressed “concerns” on its use of data and China’s government while failing to offer any counterpoint or critique of what clearly constitutes obvious opportunism.

These alleged “concerns” are not actually built on any serious empirical evidence at all but rather a guilt by association premise that the owners of the application are Chinese; therefore, they constitute a “threat.” A similar logic was applied to the popular LGBT dating application Grindr, which was also owned by a Chinese company until it was forced to divest.

Although one can never tell with Trump, this is likely to be the eventual outcome here.

The idea of the president indiscriminately banning a popular application with over 80 million users on questionable political grounds is likely to generate large scale discontent, especially among young people. The move comes across as petty, vindictive and bitter.

As a result, his threats to ban it are likely to be, even if imposed initially, a negotiating tactic to force Bytedance to sell the application, a very much textbook Trump “art of the deal” move, whereby he threatens to accumulate leverage over a particular target in the goal of pressuring them into handing him a zero-sum result in his own favor.

Talk of a ban is designed to hasten the divestment talks and force TikTok to lower its negotiating price in desperation, again very common “Trumpian” tactics.

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Of course, the bigger picture here is how the president is utilizing coercion to sustain an American global monopoly over technology at all costs.

If Chinese technology companies have global ambitions, this is ultimately a turbulent time for them, for it appears that every time a certain firm or application passes a particular global level of prominence, it now faces open campaigning against it, threats and attempts by the U.S. government to put it out of business.

If Tiktok is being challenged, then one must question “what won’t be?”– nothing seems to be out of bounds. There is a state of mind that any sort of competition or threat to America’s hold over these markets must be extinguished, forcefully.

The “fear” tactic used against these companies stems from inherent political and economic motivations, and mainstream media fails to give scope to the fact that these anti-Chinese tech campaigns are not driven by facts, fairness or purity but constitute naked cynical politics.

In this case, the TikTok saga is a perfect rendition of Trump’s mindset when it comes both to business and America’s hegemony in the world, and competitors ought to be undermined by force and the threat of force alike.

The company’s days in the American market are numbered. Ultimately, Bytedance’s best hope is that it can push through a deal that rewards it for its success in creating the currently most downloaded application in the world.

It must not let obvious smear politics weigh on its success, nor should it allow Trumpian “art of the deal” threats to lower its price in desperation.

Sharing sovereignty with an American co-owner is not the worst outcome, nor is it a fair one given the circumstances.

Originally published at CGTN

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