The Chinese government will not accept an acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations by Microsoft and may take action to prevent the deal if a sale is forced by the Trump administration, China Daily, a state-controlled media outlet in Beijing said in its Tuesday editorial.
The strongly worded editorial, which is the first sign of a pushback on the deal from China, noted “China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab.”
The editorial alleged that the White House’s threat to ban the app was done “with the aim of getting what the US administration wants,” implying that the TikTok sale was the administration’s ultimate goal.
Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming, however, told employees in an internal letter that there were misunderstandings on Chinese social media about TikTok’s situation, Reuters reported.
Zhang noted that a forced sale of TikTok to a U.S. company was part of a legal process which the company will abide by if needed, but he alleged that the sale was “not their goal…Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban,” Bloomberg reported separately.
There is no clarity on what steps China may take to retaliate, but The Global Times— another state controlled outlet— wrote that the country has “limited ability” to protect its companies since the U.S. still enjoys technological superiority.
Users on Chinese social media have expressed outrage over the proposed sale of Tiktok, with some users commenting on Douyin—TikTok’s China-specific version— that Huawei should be allowed to buy Apple’s China operations in retaliation, the Wall Street Journal reported.