Chinese state media has blasted U.S. attempts to break up TikTok, labeling it a "smash and grab" and warning that the "theft" of a Chinese company would be met with a response.
The editorial came as President Donald Trump signaled that he would green-light a proposed deal for Microsoft to buy the popular video sharing app's American operations from its Chinese owner ByteDance, and said that the U.S. Treasury should take a cut for making the deal possible.
The China Daily editorial warned that "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."
Another piece in China Daily, which is published by the ruling Communist Party, quoted critics who labelled the president's demand for the government to get a cut "out of the norm" and a "mafia" deal.
A third piece in the Global Times reflected the belief of many in China that Washington's policies toward Beijing are dictated by a desire to undermine the country's global clout.
"A group of politicians and scholars in the U.S. are full of prejudice and fear of China's rise," it said. "The real purpose of the U.S. is to create trouble for China's rise so that it can maintain its hegemony."
On Monday, Trump set a deadline for the deal to be completed by September 15 otherwise the popular video-sharing app would be banned.
The Global Times argued that U.S. moves against TikTok and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei show America’s “weakening competitiveness” in the global marketplace and demonstrate that the country is threatened by China’s ability to create companies that move to “the forefront of the world in technology.”
TikTok — which says it has 100 million users in the U.S. — has become the latest flashpoint in the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing. Lawmakers in the U.S. have expressed concerns that the Chinese owned app could present a security threat as it could allow Beijing access to the data of its American users, something the company denies.
While ByteDance is reluctant to divest its U.S. operations, Zhang Yiming, the company’s CEO, said in a letter circulated to ByteDance employees Monday — and sent to NBC News — that the company was having “preliminary discussions with a technology company” to clear the way to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S.
Microsoft, meanwhile, said in a blog post on Sunday that it was continuing to “explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States” before the September 15 deadline. The technology company added that it “appreciates the importance of addressing the president’s concerns” and that any deal would be dependent on a “complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”
Speaking Monday, Trump told reporters that the U.S. should "get a very large percentage of that price because we're making it possible."
"I use the expression, 'It's like the landlord and the tenant.' And without the lease, the tenant doesn't have the value. Well, we're sort of, in a certain way, the lease. We make it possible to have this great success," he added.
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Should the deal go through, Microsoft would gain entry into the social media space dominated by Facebook and Google, as well as smaller services like Snapchat and Twitter. The company also plans to buy TikTok’s Canada, New Zealand and Australia operations too as part of the deal.
In recent weeks, the U.S. and China have also clashed over issues including Hong Kong, human rights abuses of China’s ethnic Uighur population and the coronavirus pandemic which the White House has repeatedly blamed China for. The U.S. ordered the closure of China’s Houston consulate — due to allegations about intellectual property theft — and China ordered the closure of the American consulate in Chengdu in response.
The prospect of more tit-for-tat between the two countries — this time over journalists — was raised by Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times on Tuesday. Writing on Twitter, Hu said that if the the visas of Chinese journalists working in the U.S. were not renewed then the "Chinese side will retaliate, including targeting U.S. journalists based in Hong Kong."
“We must see China’s progress being revealed in the current frictions and have full confidence in the future,” the Global Times editorial concludes. “Such positive and rational attitude will make China, the huge emerging economy, invincible.”