China Says It Opposes a Forced Sale of TikTok

A TikTok advertisement at Union Station in Washington, D.C., addresses user security and privacy concerns.


Nathan Howard/Bloomberg News

BEIJING—China said it would strongly oppose any forced sale of TikTok, responding for the first time to a Biden administration demand that the video app divest itself from its Beijing-based parent ByteDance Ltd. or face a nationwide ban.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday that a forced sale by Washington could damage the confidence of Chinese investors in the U.S. and said any sale or spinoff of TikTok would involve technology-export issues that would need to be handled according to Chinese law and with the approval of the Chinese government.

The “Chinese government would make a decision based on related laws,” said Shu Yuting, a spokeswoman for the ministry. She said a forced sale would severely undermine global investors,’ including Chinese investors’ confidence in investing in the U.S.

“China will firmly oppose it,” said the spokeswoman.

The comments were Beijing’s first official response to the Biden administration threat, first reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, to ban the app if ByteDance’s Chinese owners didn’t sell out. And they come hours before TikTok’s chief executive is due to appear before a House committee that is expected to probe him about what many lawmakers and Biden administration officials say is the app’s national security risks.

Shou Zi Chew is slated to appear before the House Energy and Commerce committee later on Thursday.

Critics on Capitol Hill and in the Biden administration have said the app poses a security risk because of its Chinese ownership. They contend that Chinese law could force ByteDance to turn over American user data to Beijing or tweak its algorithms to influence what Americans see on the app. TikTok said it has never had a request like that and would refuse it if it received one.

Mr. Chew has argued that a multibillion investment he is pursuing to hive off TikTok’s American data would also protect against any such Chinese encroachment.

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