China Says It Must Give Approval Before ByteDance Can Sell TikTok

By Musa Sunusi Ahmad

China has imposed new regulations that could slow down the sale of TikTok’s US operations by ByteDance, the South China Morning Post reported. US President Donald Trump invoked emergency powers earlier this month, giving China’s ByteDance 90 days to sell its US operations in TikTok or to stop all of its US operations. The 90 days will end on 15 September but China has now stepped in, tightening up export rules concerning tech matters.
Under the new regulations, Chinese companies would need government approval before exporting some technologies, such as certain forms of artificial intelligence like voice recognition (Article 18), and data analytics and content recommendation (Article 21). China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology have not updated the list of technology exports that are banned or restricted since 2008. It can take 30 days to decide to give permission or not for certain exports. Exporters are also required to submit deals to the government for review and apply for an export licence; that decision can take up to 15 days.

“ByteDance has a number of cutting-edge technologies in artificial intelligence and other fields, and some technologies may be covered by the adjusted list,” Cui Fan, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told state news agency Xinhua. Cui said that ByteDance’s international businesses, including TikTok, had been able to achieve rapid development because of strong domestic technical support. “Therefore, it is recommended that Bytedance carefully studies the adjusted list, to consider whether it is necessary to suspend the substantive negotiation of related transactions, perform the statutory declaration procedures, and then take further actions as appropriate,” the professor said.

China has been strengthening its export controls amid trade disagreements with the US. The new amendments cover a wide range of areas, including biotechnology used in vaccines and agriculture, and have been in the works for two years.

Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart are among those interested in TikTok’s US operations. ByteDance has nevertheless told its TikTok engineers to make contingency plans should US operations need to shut down.

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