Chinese state media praised the proposed deal between TikTok creators ByteDance and Oracle Corporation on Tuesday — The Communist Party’s Global Times saluted it as recognition for “the hard-won efforts of the Chinese company amid a lack of trust between the world’s two largest economies.”
“The deal still needs approval from the US government, and any flip-flop by the Trump administration will add uncertainty and challenges to the deal,” the Global Times grumbled, quoting some Chinese analysts who thought President Donald Trump might scuttle the deal to “play the China card” and boost his reelection prospects.
ByteDance and Oracle issued upbeat statements about the chances for keeping the TikTok video microblogging platform alive in the United States:
TikTok on Monday said in a statement it had submitted a proposal to the US administration, which “we believe would resolve the administration’s security concerns.”
“This proposal would enable us to continue supporting our community of 100 million people in the US who love TikTok for the connections and entertainment it offers, as well as the hundreds of thousands of small business owners and creators who rely upon TikTok to grow their livelihoods and build meaningful careers,” said the statement.
Separately, Oracle confirmed Monday that it is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the US Treasury Department over the weekend, in which the US software firm “will serve as the trusted technology provider,” according to a company statement.
Although Chinese media dismissed any potential Trump Administration objections to the deal as political posturing, a group of Republican senators headed by Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned on Wednesday that the deal might not fully address the security concerns that prompted Trump’s threat to ban TikTok.
“Any deal between an American company and ByteDance must ensure that TikTok’s U.S. operations, data, and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actors, including any entity that can be compelled by Chinese law to turn over or access U.S. consumer data,” the senators cautioned in their letter to Trump.
“As reported, the proposed partnership agreement between Oracle and TikTok leaves significant unresolved national security issues, and we expect the Administration to keep Congress fully informed as you evaluate this potential agreement,” they wrote.
Rubio and his colleagues argued that the deal “appears to fall short of a full acquisition” of TikTok by the American corporation, raising questions about the code that makes TikTok work and the possibility that entities controlled by the Chinese state could still gain access to the data of American users. They worried the security situation might get even worse if the arrangement gives Chinese state entities access to Oracle technology.
“If reports indicating this proposed deal will retain links to ByteDance or other Chinese-controlled entities, we strongly urge the Administration to reject such a proposal on national security grounds,” the senators said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter on Monday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin advising the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to reject the ByteDance-Oracle partnership proposal.
“ByteDance can still pursue a full sale of TikTok, its code, and its algorithm to a U.S. company, so that the app can be rebuilt from the ground up to remove any trace of CCP influence. Or perhaps, given constraints imposed by Chinese law, the only feasible way to maintain Americans’ security is to effectively ban the TikTok app in the United States altogether,” Hawley suggested.
“In any event, an ongoing ‘partnership’ that allows for anything other than the full emancipation of the TikTok software from potential Chinese Communist Party control is completely unacceptable, and flatly inconsistent with the President’s Executive Order of August 6,” he asserted, referring to the same executive order as the Rubio letter to Trump.
Hawley noted that in addition to concerns about TikTok’s code and the potential for Chinese intelligence to harvest data on American users, Trump’s executive order also said TikTok “reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive” and could be “used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.” Hawley thought neither of those concerns would be addressed if Oracle merely acquires a stake in TikTok’s U.S. operations.
“China’s repressive intelligence laws, which allow the seizure of data from Chinese companies like ByteDance if the Chinese Communist Party comes knocking, still remain in force. And that is why any corporate shell game that leaves TikTok in the hands of ByteDance will simply perpetuate the original problem, leaving U.S. national interests and everyday users at serious risk,” he said.