Chinese tech firm ByteDance, the parent company of video-sharing platform TikTok, struck a defiant tone on Thursday, saying publicly for the first time that the proposed deal would not involve the sale of operations and technology, and would require regulatory approvals from both the Chinese and US governments after US President Donald Trump raised doubts over a reported partnership deal just days ahead of a deadline for a forced sale of TikTok’s US operations.
The latest developments underscored the still elusive nature of an extremely complex situation that directly involves TikTok’s fate in the US and is at the forefront of the escalating technology war between China and the US. They also highlighted the limitations of the US’ “mafia-style extortion” of the Chinese firm and China’s low-key but firm measures to protect its technologies and companies, experts noted.
While it is still possible for the US to approve what Chinese experts call a most reasonable deal, which was set up for a partnership rather than a complete takeover, the Chinese company showed that it was prepared for a worst-case scenario where it is banned completely in the US – potentially sounding the alarm for other Chinese companies that are being targeted by the US government, experts added.
After Trump hinted that he could disapprove a reported deal and with the fate of its US operations on the line, ByteDance remained defiant as it denied reaching any final deal, publicly defying a US government order and invoking new Chinese regulations in the process.
In a statement on Thursday, the Beijing-based company said that though the company was in talks with some companies on a “cooperation plan” to address US concerns, no final deal has been reached yet.
“The above plan does not involve a sale of operations or technology and a final deal also has not been signed yet,” ByteDance said, defying a US order to sell its operations or face a ban.
In addition, a final deal still needs to be approved by relevant authorities in both China and the US, the company told the Global Times on Thursday.
The statement came after Trump said on Wednesday he was not ready to sign off on a deal between ByteDance and US tech firm Oracle, just days before a September 20 deadline set by Trump for TikTok to sell its US operations to a US business or face a complete ban in the country.
The partnership deal with Oracle would allow ByteDance to retain its algorithms, while Oracle would control US users’ data, according to media reports.
Asked about the reported deal at a press briefing on Wednesday, Trump said that “I’m not prepared to sign off on anything. I have to see the deal… conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that.”
In a bizarre remark, Trump, who was a real estate developer before venturing into politics, appeared to be very surprised when he found out that the US government could not take a share of the deal as he has repeatedly claimed he would do like what a real estate broker would do.
“Amazingly, I found that you’re not allowed to do that… I said, ‘No, I want a big chunk of that money to go to the United States government because we made it possible.’ And the lawyers come back to me and they say, ‘Well, there’s no way of doing that,'” Trump said, according to the White House.
Trump added that he would receive a report on the deal on Thursday morning (US time). It was unclear if a decision would be made at the time.