Proposed US TikTok ban ‘not fair’, China’s foreign ministry says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 14, 2024 | 3:26 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) – There is “no fairness to speak of” in citing national security to reduce the competitive advantage of other countries, a spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday, criticising a U.S. bill to force a TikTok divestiture or ban.

The measure is the latest in a series of moves in Washington to respond to U.S. national security concerns about China, from connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to cranes at U.S. ports.

Wednesday’s bill, overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the U.S. assets of the short-video app, or face a ban.

“The U.S. House of Representatives passing this bill lets the United States stand on the opposite side of the principles of fair competition and international trade rules,” said ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

“If so-called national security reasons can be used to wilfully suppress other countries’ superior companies, there would be no fairness to speak of.”

China has persistently railed that the United States overstretches the concept of national security, and Wang has previously said its bullying acts, as he described them, disrupt normal international trade order, and will eventually backfire.

“The U.S. increasing the (serious) handling of this matter lets the world see clearly whether the United States’ so-called rules-based competition is beneficial to the world or is only self-serving,” he added.

U.S. legislators have raised fears that TikTok’s U.S. user data could be passed on to China’s government.

The fate of TikTok, used by about 170 million Americans, has become a major issue in Washington, where lawmakers have complained their offices have been flooded with calls from TikTok users who oppose the legislation.

Wang said the U.S. did not find evidence of TikTok violating national security, but abused state power to go after the company.

TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew has said the firm never shared, or received a request to share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government, adding, “Nor would TikTok honor such a request if one were ever made.”

(Reporting by Laurie Chen; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)