The move, announced by Mr. Trump as he returned from Florida to Washington on Friday night, is likely to further ignite geopolitical tensions with China. It could also wipe out, or at least complicate, the efforts of several potential US buyers of TikTok, including Microsoft, to buy the company.
“As for TikTok, we are banning them in the United States,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, adding that he could use his executive powers to formalize the decision as early as Saturday.
Mr Trump’s comments came after it emerged that Microsoft, the U.S. tech company, was in talks to buy TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance in China, according to people familiar with the matter. A group of US investors in ByteDance, including Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic, also discussed a deal to buy TikTok, the Financial Times reported last week, so that its US operations can be separated from the parent company. Chinese.
But Mr. Trump poured cold water on a possible sale of TikTok to an American company on Friday night, saying he was not in favor of such an option. “Not the deal you’ve heard of, that they’re going to buy and sell. . . and Microsoft and another. We are not an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] country, ”he said, according to the Reuters news agency.
TikTok did not respond to comments from Mr. Trump in particular, but released a statement after media reports on Friday highlighting plans to increase its US workforce by 1,000 people by ten and a $ 1 billion fund for help American creators.
“TikTok US user data is stored in the United States, with strict controls over employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors are from the United States. We are committed to protecting the privacy and security of our users as we continue to work to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform, ”the company said.
The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, headed by the Treasury Department, had reviewed TikTok’s status in recent weeks over national security concerns, fearing that China could access data sensitive via the app. In addition to considering an outright ban and split to an American buyer, the Trump administration has also weighed in on whether to place TikTok on the so-called list of entities managed by the Commerce Department, in order to severely restrict its ability to do business in the United States.
A ban on TikTok in the United States could spark further friction between Washington and Beijing at a time when it is already at such a low point that many observers describe their relationship in terms of a new “cold war.”
The battle for dominance of technology has been one of the greatest strategic and economic sources of rivalry. In 2019, the Trump administration placed Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker, on the “entity list,” calling it a threat to national security, and went on to press its allies around the world to that they reject its use in their own 5G mobile. networks.
Banning TikTok operations in the United States may help support Mr. Trump with some voters within his political base and beyond who have highlighted anti-China sentiments, but it also risks triggering a backlash. among app users in America, especially young voters.
Additional reporting by Arash Massoudi in London, James Fontanella-Khan in New York and Richard Waters in San Francisco