China said it would strongly oppose any forced sale of TikTok, responding for the first time to Biden administration demands that the video app divest itself from its Chinese parent ByteDance or face a US ban, reported CNN.
China's commerce ministry said on Thursday that a forced sale of TikTok would "seriously damage" global investor confidence in the United States.
"The sale or divestiture of TikTok involves technology export, and administrative licensing procedures must be performed in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations," she said.
"The Chinese government will make a decision in accordance with the law."
This comes after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before US Congress amid growing security concerns and potential Chinese government influence over the company.
Chew faced hostile questioning from the House Energy and Commerce Committee as he verbally danced to make the case that the social media giant is taking "real action" to address national security concerns from the US.
Previously, Beijing didn't weigh in directly on a potential forced sale. However, starting in 2020, it had signalled it wanted to protect Chinese technology by adding recommendation algorithms, which could include TikTok's, to a list of technologies restricted for export, reported CNN.
The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok's Chinese owners sell their stakes, citing national-security concerns that Beijing could access US users' data and influence the content that Americans consume.
Beijing has increasingly signalled its desire to protect Chinese technology. It recently proposed to amend a regulation restricting the export of Chinese-created content-recommendation algorithms, a secret sauce of TikTok's global success, which lawyers say is a reminder that Beijing has a hand to play in any deal.
TikTok's algorithms, which keep users glued to the app, are believed to be key to its success. The algorithms give recommendations based on users' behaviour, thus pushing videos they actually like and want to watch.
Chinese regulators first added algorithms to the restricted list of technologies in August 2020, when the Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok unless it was sold, reported CNN.
Analysts and legal experts believe that Beijing may ultimately prefer for TikTok to leave the US market rather than surrender its algorithm. (ANI)