A US investigation into ByteDance’s TikTok is really intended to smother a Chinese-owned app that’s become a sensation with Americans, founder Zhang Yiming told employees in China on Tuesday.
In his second missive to the troops in as many days, the billionaire entrepreneur said a government probe into the company’s 2017 purchase of Musical.ly, — TikTok’s progenitor — was intended to spur a complete shutout.
Escalating US-China tensions had prompted American politicians to warn that the app posed a potential national security threat and call for an investigation into whether US user data was being shared with Beijing, accusations that ByteDance has repeatedly rejected.
Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from the White House and US lawmakers to sell off its US TikTok operations and now has until 15 September to hold negotiations with Microsoft over such a deal. President Donald Trump said on Monday any sale of TikTok’s American operations would have to include a substantial payment to the US, though it wasn’t clear under what authority he can extract a payment.
While a forced sale of TikTok to a US buyer is “unreasonable”, it is still part of a legal process and the company has no choice but to abide by the law, Zhang said. “But this is not their goal, or even what they want. Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban,” he wrote.