The founder of ByteDance, the Chinese social media giant behind TikTok, on Wednesday said a deal with Microsoft was the “only way” to prevent the popular video app from getting banned in the United States, BBC reported. Zhang Yiming said that those critical of the acquisition do not see the “full context”.
Microsoft had on Monday said it was in talks with ByteDance to buy parts of TikTok after US President Donald Trump reversed course on a plan to ban the video app on national security grounds. Trump said he would allow the app to keep operating if it was sold to an American owner and gave Microsoft 45 days to strike a deal.
However, the move has drawn widespread criticism from people in China. Many took to the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, to express their displeasure against Zhang’s compliance and cooperation in selling TikTok to an American firm, The Business Insider reported. Some also described Zhang as a traitor.
In a letter to the company’s Chinese staff, Zhang acknowledged the criticism but claimed that “many people misunderstand the current, complex situation”. “As a company, we have to abide by the laws of the markets where we operate,” he said. “It feels like the goal was not necessarily a forced sale, but given the current macro situation, a ban or even more.”
The Chinese entrepreneur also reminded the employees of the firm’s “global ambitions”, which he said needed to be viewed in context of the rise in anti-Chinese sentiment around the world, including in the US and India. Chinese apps were also banned in India in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clash, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
In a statement issued on Sunday, ByteDance had reiterated its commitment of going global. “In the process, we are facing all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties,” the company had said. This included “the tense international political environment, the collision and conflict of different cultures, and the plagiarism and smear of competitor Facebook”.
Meanwhile, China on Tuesday said it will not accept “rogue country” United States’ attempts of acquiring TikTok. In an editorial published in state-run China Daily, Beijing said it considered Microsoft’s pursuit of purchasing the company a “theft” of its technology, adding it had “plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab”.