US flags are seen near a TikTok logo. Picture: REUTERS/FLORENCE LO
US flags are seen near a TikTok logo. Picture: REUTERS/FLORENCE LO

Hong Kong — China’s government will not accept an acquisition of TikTok’s US operations by Microsoft and may take action against Washington if a sale is forced, the Beijing-backed China Daily said in its Tuesday editorial.

It is Beijing’s strongest defence so far of Bytedance and its popular video platform, which President Donald Trump threatened to ban unless a deal is struck by September 15 to sell TikTok’s US business to Microsoft or another US entity. That process is tantamount to officially sanctioned theft, the Communist Party mouthpiece wrote, echoing prominent Beijing-backed media such as the Global Times.

“China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab,” it said. “With competitiveness now dependent on the ability to collect and use data, it offers an either-or choice of submission or mortal combat in the tech realm.”

Bytedance became the world’s largest start-up thanks to the success abroad of TikTok, which American legislators accuse of posing a threat to national security by vacuuming up data. Trump can potentially cripple Bytedance’s prized asset by adding TikTok to the US entity list, which would compel American companies such as Apple and Alphabet’s Google to drop the service from their app stores.

The US crackdown has split many in the industry. Some decry the betrayal of free speech and capitalism values, while others advocate doing whatever it takes to subdue a geopolitical rival and its pivotal tech industry.

Trump insisted on Monday that any sale of TikTok’s US operations would have to include a substantial payment to the US. That was “open robbery,” tweeted Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid run by the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily.

It is unclear what regulatory measures China could take. The Global Times wrote China has a “limited ability” to protect its companies since the US still enjoys technological superiority.

China’s ministry of foreign affairs has previously criticised Washington for employing double standards in trying to ban TikTok. But asked about the latest developments at a regular press briefing on Monday, a spokesperson said: “We also don’t comment on the specific business activity of the relevant companies.”

Bloomberg

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