TikTok warning: China threatens retaliation after Microsoft ‘theft’ of video service

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TikTok found itself at the centre of the newest round of disagreement between China and the United States in an environment of growing tensions between the two powers. US President Donald Trump suggested he would ban the social media service in the US but tech giant Microsoft this week made an offer to acquire the video service’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, Chinese state media has warned Beijing could retaliate to US attempts to buy into the company, branding Microsoft’s proposals to buy a “theft.”

Reporting from China, CNBC reporter Arjun Kharpal said: “There has been some reaction in China from state media.

“A couple of publications have amounted this bid by Microsoft of TikTok to ‘theft’.

“They said it’s a ‘smash and grab’ by the US and said that China may respond and has ‘many ways to respond.’

“Perhaps a veiled threat of retaliation here. No specifics of what they might look like.”

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President Trump welcomed Microsoft’s bid for TikTok, suggesting he would give the companies until September 15 to secure a deal before he bans the video service.

He also suggested the US Treasury could receive part of the earnings of the acquisition for “facilitating” the deal.

Mr Trump said in a press conference on Monday: “A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.

“Without us…I used the expression the landlord and the tenant. Without the lease, the tenant doesn’t have the value and in a certain way we make the lease possible, to have this great success.

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“TikTok is a tremendous success but a big portion of it is in this country.”

The US had previously expressed concerns about the data-collection practices of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance but the video service insisted they do not take direction from their Beijing headquarters.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing opposed attempts from Washington DC to hit out at Chinese companies over security fears.

Mr Wang said: “The US generalises the concept of national security and, without any evidence, presumptions of guilt and threats against relevant companies.

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“This violates the principles of market economy and exposes the hypocrisy and typical double standards of the US in maintaining fairness and freedom.

“It also violates the World Trade Organisation’s principles of openness, transparency and non-discrimination.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the weekend said the US will take action against Chinese-owned software companies believed to be a threat to US national security “in the coming days”.

Speaking to Fox News, Mr Pompeo claimed TikTok was among a group of companies “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party,” despite the service repeatedly denying such claims.

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