TikTok and Chinese Government Officials Push Back Against ByteDance Divestiture Demand As Bipartisan Criticism Continues

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Beijing, China. Photo Credit: zhang kaiyv

As the White House reportedly demands that ByteDance sell its interest in TikTok or grapple with the short-form app’s potential stateside ban, both the video-sharing service and the Chinese government itself are firing back against the ultimatum.

Beijing (which owns a piece of ByteDance) and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew (who’s scheduled to testify before Congress next week) just recently took aim at the White House’s reported demand. The reported sale requirement derived specifically from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and arrived on the heels of ample user-privacy and national-security scrutiny of the platform.

To be sure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have raised far-reaching concerns about TikTok, which the U.K. yesterday banned on government devices. Meanwhile, Congress, all federal agencies, and a number of state governments have outlawed the use of the service, which the Chinese Communist Party allegedly utilizes to amass sensitive data and mold cultural trends to its benefit on the world stage.

Now, the aforementioned Shou Zi Chew is, predictably, disputing the idea that TikTok’s sale would remedy the security worries at hand.

Instead, the Singapore-born executive is continuing to tout “Project Texas,” or a purportedly $1.5 billion restructuring plan under which TikTok user information would ostensibly be held in an Oracle-managed data center in the Lone Star State. Project Texas, the 40-year-old maintains, is a viable alternative to Beijing-headquartered ByteDance’s selling its stake and would resolve the multifaceted problems over which TikTok is facing criticism.

“So far I haven’t heard anything that cannot actually be solved by this,” the TikTok CEO told the Wall Street Journal of Project Texas, as his company is reportedly battling a Justice Department investigation over alleged spying on U.S. journalists. More broadly, TikTok has likewise been accused of suppressing certain ideas, being used to track the locations of American citizens, and threatening “children’s privacy as well as their mental health.”

Needless to say, these and related topics will come up when Shou Zi Chew appears before the House next Thursday, March 23rd. In a further testament to the high-stakes nature of the showdown – and the Chinese government’s clear-cut desire for ByteDance to remain TikTok’s parent and for the app to stay live in the States – Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin addressed the situation during a briefing.

“The U.S. should stop spreading disinformation about data security, stop suppressing the relevant company, and provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for foreign businesses to invest and operate in the U.S.,” said the CCP official, whose comments enter the media spotlight as federal senators are pushing “bipartisan legislation to crack down on trade cheats like China.”

Worth mentioning in conclusion is that TikTok, despite being banned by governments around the globe and eliciting music industry pushback amid evidently drawn-out licensing talks with the Big Three, has continued to expand in recent months with the rollout of an updated Creator Fund and a “Series” paywall feature.