World

Govt should get ‘substantial portion’ of TikTok's US sale price: Trump

US President threatens to ban the app on Sept 15 without a sale, as Beijing says it won't accept 'theft' of a Chinese tech company

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Monday that the government should get a "substantial portion" of the sale price of the US operations of popular short-video app TikTok and warned he would ban the service on Sept 15 if there was no sale.

Escalating US-China tensions had prompted warnings that US user data was being shared with the government in Beijing, accusations that TikTok's Chinese-owned parent ByteDance has repeatedly rejected.

The turnaround came after Mr Trump last Friday said he was planning to ban the video app's US operations as soon as Saturday after dismissing a possible sale to Microsoft.

Reuters reported last week that some investors are valuing TikTok at about US$50 billion (S$69 billion), citing sources.

"I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it's China essentially… I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we're making it possible for this deal to happen," Mr Trump said.

He later defended his push, adding "nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that's the way I think".

Mr Nicholas Klein, a lawyer at DLA Piper, said generally "the government does not have the authority to take a cut of a private deal through" the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the interagency committee that reviews some foreign investments in the US.

The China Daily newspaper said yesterday China will not accept the "theft" of a Chinese technology company and it will respond to Washington's move to push ByteDance to sell TikTok's US operations to Microsoft.

The US "bullying" of Chinese tech companies was a consequence of Washington's zero-sum vision of "American first" and leaves China no choice but "submission or mortal combat in the tech realm", the state-backed paper said in an editorial.

China had "plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab", it added.

ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming told employees in an internal letter yesterday that the US goal was not to force a sale of TikTok's US operations but rather to ban the app, and that some people had misconceptions about the situation.

The letter, reported by Chinese media and confirmed by a source to Reuters, was sent only to ByteDance's Chinese employees after news that it was in talks to sell parts of TikTok to Microsoft prompted online criticism of the firm and Mr Zhang.

Twenty TikTok stars, whose combined following tops 100 million people, posted an open letter to Mr Trump arguing against banning the app.

"A virtual world dominated by hate on Twitter is nothing compared to the snapshots of joy and comedy on TikTok," read the open letter.

"So instead of eliminating TikTok, why not use this opportunity to spin off TikTok US in an IPO or sell it to a US company - let capitalism solve this issue, not the state." - REUTERS, AFP

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