Commentary

ByteDance Founder Defends TikTok Sale

Despite charges of treason by his Chinese countrymen, Zhang Yiming, founder of TikTok parent ByteDance, says he remains open to a sale of the popular app.

"Many people misunderstand the current, complex situation,” Yiming said in a letter to employees this week.

After consulting with President Trump, Microsoft publicly announced plans to pursue an acquisition of TikTok this weekend. On Monday, Trump said he supported the deal.

Regardless of who owns the app, however, Yiming suspects that Trump and other U.S. government officials are not interested in TikTok maintaining its presence in the country.  

“It feels like the goal was not necessarily a forced sale, but given the current macro situation, a ban or even more,” Yiming said in his letter.

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On Friday, Trump said that a U.S. ban of TikTok was imminent, while sources told Bloomberg the President was ready to sign an order directing ByteDance to divest from TikTok.

Citing national-security concerns, Trump and other government officials have voiced their uneasiness about TikTok, which they fear could be gathering user data on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Largely due to its Chinese origins, ByteDance has been losing its footing in key markets around the world. At the end of June, for instance, the Indian government banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese-owned apps for threatening the “sovereignty and integrity” of the country.

Although a sale to Microsoft has yet to be signed, ByteDance has been setting the stage for such a deal.

Together with Microsoft, the Chinese tech titan has already notified the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment about a possible sale.

Specifically, the two companies provided notice of their intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets.

Trump suggested on Monday that Microsoft should buy out TikTok entirely. Buying only a portion of the unit would be “complicated,” he said during a briefing.

Oddly, the President also suggested that Microsoft should pay the U.S. government a cut of whatever price it ultimately agrees to pay for TikTok.

“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,” Trump said.

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