China Responds to ByteDance Share Sale Requirements By US

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin held a regular press conference on March 16. Wang was asked at the conference that, “a TikTok spokesman told Reuters that the Biden administration has asked Chinese tech company ByteDance to sell TikTok, otherwise the latter would face a ban from the US. What is China’s comment on this?”

Wang Wenbin said that “China has always maintained that data security should not be a tool for some countries to generalize the concept of national security, abuse state power and unreasonably suppress other countries’ enterprises. So far, the US has failed to provide evidence to prove that TikTok threatens the US’s national security. The United States should stop spreading false information on data security issues, stop unreasonably suppressing relevant enterprises, and provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for enterprises for all enterprises.”

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According to a report by Reuters on March 16, the US administration asked ByteDance to sell its shares of the popular short video app TikTok. It is reported that if ByteDance does not agree to sell, the app may be banned in the US.

In 2020, former US President Donald Trump issued a presidential decree prohibiting the use of TikTok, which was subsequently cancelled in June 2021 after President Joe Biden took office. However, at present, the rumored doubts that TikTok has leaked information to the Chinese government (such as user information) have intensified, and the trend of banning its use has reemerged.

Today’s move marks a major change in the US administration’s policy, while some Republicans have been criticizing the government for not taking a tough enough stance to solve the security threat brought by TikTok. 

TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement, “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.” The company further expressed, “the best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification.”