By Arjun Kharpal, CNBC
CHINESE state media labeled the US a “rogue country” and dubbed the potential sale of social media firm TikTok to Microsoft as “theft,” adding that Beijing could retaliate if a deal is sealed.
Microsoft announced plans on Sunday to acquire TikTok’s business in certain markets — the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Commenting on the matter, US President Donald Trump said that buying only part of the app will be “complicated”— but he still gave Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella the go ahead. Trump added that some “key money” would have to be paid to the US Treasury Department for making the deal possible.
Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor-in-chief of the state-backed Global Times, called the move an “open robbery” and said “President Trump is turning the once great America into a rogue country.”
TikTok has been under fire from Washington which has accused the Chinese-owned app of collecting data on Americans and sending it to the Chinese government. TikTok has repeatedly denied this.
The Trump administration first threatened to ban TikTok. On Sunday before Microsoft announced its intention to acquire TikTok, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Fox News interview that Trump will take action “in the coming days” on the app.
China Daily, another state-backed publication, highlighted these comments as being “tantamount to inviting potential US purchasers to participate in an officially sanctioned ‘steal’ of Chinese technology.”
In an op-ed published Sunday, the newspaper suggested that China could retaliate.
“But China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab.”
The article did not outline ways in which Beijing may respond.
Global Times ran a headline that read: “Banning TikTok reflects Washington’s cowardice.”
The Chinese tabloid, published by the official People’s Daily newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, used the article to accuse the US of moving to ban the app because it sees it as a threat to American technology firms. The piece also mentioned similar moves by the US to block Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei.
These companies have “brought a sense of crisis to US elites, which shows that China’s top companies have the ability to move to the forefront of the world in technology,” the Global Times said.
“When similar things happen time and again, the US will take steps closer to its decline. The US is a pioneer in global internet and has created Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But in recent years, the US’ internet structure has been rigid,” it added.
US moves against Chinese technology companies are happening as tensions between world’s two largest economies continue to rise. Some commentators have dubbed their relationship as the “new Cold War.”
Technology has been a key part of the dispute between the two nations, and TikTok is the latest to be dragged into the fight.
The social media app is perhaps one of the few Chinese companies to have found success in the American market. With Chinese technology firms expanding globally, one analyst recently told CNBC that the TikTok saga is part of Washington’s strategy to push back against the competition.
Top: China and US flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken on July 16, 2020. Photo: Florence Lo / Reuters published by CNBC