A deal to prevent TikTok from being banned in the US has been plunged into peril.
The Chinese company ByteDance had reached an agreement with Oracle and Walmart that was designed to allay national security concerns, but Global Times, a newspaper backed by the Chinese state, has suggested Beijing is unlikely to give its approval.
Under the plans, a new US subsidiary would be tasked with running TikTok, a video streaming app that is immensely popular with teenagers.
But the newspaper’s editorial denounced a requirement that four of the five board seats of this company must be held by Americans, with only one reserved for a Chinese national.
“It is clear that these [terms] extensively show Washington’s bullying style and hooligan logic. They hurt China’s national security, interests and dignity,” the article warned.
Another paragraph added: “If the reorganisation of TikTok under US manipulation becomes a model, it means once any successful Chinese company expands its business to the US and becomes competitive, it will be targeted by the US and turned into a US-controlled company via trickery and coercion.”
This isn’t the only threat to the TikTok deal, which requires approval from regulators in both Beijing and Washington.
While ByteDance says it will continue to own 80% of the TikTok Global subsidiary, Oracle has said that the Chinese company won’t have a direct stake in the business.
US President Donald Trump has said that he won’t approve the deal unless he is satisfied that Oracle and Walmart have “total control” over TikTok – and warned he is prepared to scrap it.
“If we can save it, we’ll save it, and if we can’t we’ll cut if off,” he told reporters. “We have to have total security. That’s the only thing, very important, we have to have total security.”
The US Commerce Department had proposed to ban all downloads of the TikTok app in the US from last Sunday, but this measure was delayed by one week to give the companies time to finalise the deal.