Threats to ban popular TikTok video app violate 'principles of market economy'
China urged some U.S. politicians on Monday to stop politicizing economic issues and abusing the concept of national security after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States plans to take broad action on Chinese software companies over national security risks.
Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump will take action shortly on Chinese software companies, while making a claim that these companies feed data directly to the Chinese government and pose a risk to U.S. national security.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday at a regular media briefing in Beijing that China firmly opposed any U.S. actions against Chinese software companies. He said the U.S. has abused the concept of national security, presumed that Chinese software enterprises are guilty without any evidence and threatened them.
"That has violated the principles of the market economy, exposed U.S. hypocrisy of maintaining fairness and its typical double standards, and violated the World Trade Organization's principle of openness, transparency and nondiscrimination," he said.
He also called on U.S. politicians to provide an open, fair and nondiscriminatory business environment for global market entities to invest and operate in the country, and stop politicizing economic and trade issues and implementing discriminatory policies.
Pompeo's remark came after Microsoft confirmed on Sunday that it would continue talks to buy the U.S. operations of videosharing app TikTok after meeting with Trump, who threatened on Friday to ban the Chinese-owned platform from operating in the U.S. because it posed a "national security risk".
"Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States," the software giant posted on its official blog on Sunday.
Microsoft said it "will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks" and complete the talks "no later than" Sept 15.
TikTok denied it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence. In a statement on Saturday, TikTok U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas said the app is staying in the U.S. and is "not planning on going anywhere".
Early on Monday, ByteDance issued a statement saying it has always been committed to becoming a global company. "During this process, we have faced all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties, including the tense international political environment, collision and conflict of different cultures and plagiarism and smears from competitor Facebook," it said.
ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming also said on Monday in an email to staff that TikTok has always been committed to user safety, platform neutrality and transparency, and the company has initiated preliminary discussions with a tech company to help clear the way to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S..
"We do not yet know the exact details of what our end solution will be. Candidly, it is unlikely that the level of interest and speculation around TikTok will cease in the short term, and I recognize that this can be very distracting," he said.
Proposals to acquire TikTok by U.S. firms represent a "marauding acquisition" on the back of Washington's political, ideological and financial hegemony, said Shen Yi, a professor at Shanghai-based Fudan University and director of the university's Research Institution of Global Cyberspace Governance. Shen said the proposed deal "aims to safeguard U.S. national interests, materialize the so-called China threat, and remedy the shortcomings of the U.S.'lack of influence on heavyweight global social media platforms".
Microsoft said discussions with ByteDance will build upon a notification made by the two companies to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
Shen said informing the committee of the potential transaction will expand the objects under review from a foreign investment in the U.S. to the buyout of foreign enterprises by U.S. capital.
"This could only strengthen the impact of noncommercial factors such as politics, security and ideology on business operations."
"From the world economy perspective, it's part of the 'deglobalization' concern," said Chen Guoli, associate professor of strategy at business school INSEAD. "From the geopolitical perspective, it suggests that China is facing a tough external environment, which may lead to a bumpy road for the Chinese firm's overseas expansion."
Chen suggested firms learn to deal with governments in their operations. "Chinese firms are good at dealing with the Chinese government, but they seem not so adept at handling the U.S. government, such as how to lobby and how to use their mindset and their language in negotiations," he said.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration could risk alienating an important demographic with its planned ban of TikTok: young voters. Those voracious users of social media are speaking out about possibly losing access to one of their favorite channels: the immensely popular TikTok.
"If it hasn't already, I think this will definitely be a game-changer in young voters going out and voting for sure," Kaylyn Elkins, 18, of Washington state, told NBC News. "I think it's just ridiculous, considering what's going on in the world and our country alone. I think if it was owned by a European country, he (Trump) wouldn't even consider this idea."
Claudia Conway, 15, daughter of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, tweeted on Saturday: "yo@realDonaldTrump if you wanna just ban my tiktok account why didn't you just say so."
Chen Yingqunin Beijing and agencies contributed to this story.