Caixin
Aug 04, 2020 08:47 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Bytedance Founder Doubts Probe Intentions as Company Poised to Sell U.S. TikTok Under Duress

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What’s new: The notoriously low-profile billionaire behind TikTok-owner ByteDance has hit out at the U.S. government, saying a national security probe into the app was always intended to result in a “comprehensive ban.”

In his second company-wide letter to Chinese staff in as many days, ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming blamed an atmosphere of “anti-China sentiment” for the intense scrutiny of his company, which is poised to sell under duress a large portion of its overseas operations to Microsoft Corp., following sustained attacks by the Trump administration.

The details: Zhang said the U.S. regulatory investigation of his company’s 2017 purchase of Musical.ly, which began in November, was not really intended to force a sale — which would have been “unreasonable” but “within a legal framework.”

Instead it was aiming for “a comprehensive ban, and maybe more,” Zhang wrote without elaborating.

TikTok, a short video sharing app particularly popular with American teenagers, has been targeted in India, North America, Australia and elsewhere over claims it poses a threat to national security and the privacy of its users because it is wholly-owned by a Beijing-based company that is subject to Chinese law.

ByteDance is currently in talks to sell its U.S. domestic operations and those in several other nations to Microsoft, a plan complicated by a run of mixed messages from the Trump administration.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use. To read the full Caixin article in Chinese, click here.

Read More: Update: Trump Gives September Deadline for TikTok Sale, Demands Government Get a Cut

Contact reporter Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com) and editor Heather Mowbray (heathermowbray@caixin.com)

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