When former President Donald Trump had set his plan of the forced sale of TikTok’s US assets in motion, it is possible that he had not foreseen how it would end. His plan to force sell Bytedance’s TikTok to a US-owned group of buyers including Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. has been put on hold indefinitely as current President Joe Biden undertakes the task of reviewing his predecessor’s efforts to address and handle potential security risks from Chinese technology companies.
Trump had ordered the sale of the popular short-video platform showing concerns about data security and the potential for its algorithm to use the data for malpractices and further the agendas of the Chinese government. He was also adamant that the US Treasure receive a “lot of money” from the sale. TikTok had denied the allegations and had fought hard in the courts, winning most of the legal challenges.
December 4, the deadline set by the Trump administration, came and went without any real response from the government. President Biden, it seems, is in no hurry to finalize the deal. So a sale might not be on the cards after all- not an unexpected end to Trump’s crusade against the Chinese tech company. A federal judge had blocked the Trump administration in December from banning the app, saying the Commerce Department “likely overstepped” its legal authority in issuing the order.
To say that Trump and Chinese products, apps, and companies have a rocky relationship is the understatement of the century. Trump’s administration spent years pressing U.S. carriers and its allies abroad to drop Chinese telecom equipment from 5G wireless networks. It tried to keep crucial equipment from Chinese semiconductor makers. It also banned a number of Chinese apps in the US.
The US national security officials and representatives of ByteDance have entered into talks on data security and ways to prevent the information TikTok collects on American users from being accessed by the Chinese government, but no decision has been reached. The Biden administration has not yet issued a formal response to TikTok’s legal challenge against the divestiture on February 18.
“We plan to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne. “This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S. In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face.” Both TikTok and Biden’s transition team declined to comment.
President Biden has taken a rather consistent policy towards China – in contrast to Trump’s patchwork aggression — stating that America must be tougher toward Beijing. What this means for relations between the two powerhouses in the future, only time will tell.
One thing is for sure – TikTok has come to the US, and it has come to stay. It has outlasted Trump, who knows what else it will outlast?