China’s government blasted the U.S. for flouting the rules of global trade and business by threatening to ban TikTok, in Beijing’s strongest defense yet of ByteDance Ltd.’s viral video app.
President Donald Trump has said he’s considering blocking the popular music video app, while adviser Peter Navarro warned of penalties for “information warfare” against the U.S. Asked about the scrutiny, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused Washington of unfairly singling out Chinese companies.
“Recently governments and media in some countries have said double standards shouldn’t be applied to social media apps,” Wang told reporters at a regular briefing. “China’s companies and their products have provided diversity of choices for U.S. consumers. We hope the U.S. can heed the voice from the market to provide an open, just, fair business environment for foreign countries and stop politicizing economic issues.”
ByteDance has become the world’s largest startup thanks to the phenomenal success of TikTok, which American lawmakers accuse of posing a threat to national security by vacuuming up data. They have suggested that TikTok may be used as a tool to spy on users or spread propaganda to influence the November presidential elections, which Wang said was “totally groundless.”
“China is not interested in U.S. elections,” he said on Wednesday. “We urge certain people in the U.S. to take a fair and unbiased view on this matter, stop using state power to oppress Chinese companies.”
Trump has the power to cripple ByteDance’s prized asset. The president could add TikTok to the U.S. entity list, which would compel American companies such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to drop the service from their app stores. The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., better known as CFIUS, is also reviewing ByteDance’s 2017 purchase of the business that became TikTok and could force a spinoff.
That “violates the openness and transparency of WTO rules,” Wang said Thursday, repeating a common retort adopted by Beijing.
ByteDance has taken steps to distance itself from TikTok and shore up relations in Washington, appointing former Walt Disney Co. executive Kevin Mayer chief executive officer in May and increasing lobbying spending. It’s also set aside a $200 million fund to help its most popular U.S. users make careers out of their participation on the service.