Chinese state-controlled media has accused the Trump administration of “bullying” and “hooligan logic” after the U.S. President threatened to thwart TikTok’s deal with Oracle and Walmart if its Chinese parent ByteDance retains control, highlighting the challenge the companies face in getting approval both from the U.S. and Chinese government.
The state-controlled Global Times initially called the deal “reasonable” after news emerged on Saturday that Oracle and Walmart have agreed to acquire a combined 20% stake in a new U.S. based entity called TikTok Global that would operate the video-sharing platform.
However, both Trump and Oracle pushed back against assertions that ByteDance will hold an 80% stake in the newly formed company, insisting that the Chinese firm will need to further dilute its stake or risk the deal being rejected.
Following this flip-flop, an editorial in the Chinese paper slammed the deal as “unfair” adding that “China… will not yield to US intimidation and will not accept an unequal treaty that targets Chinese companies.”
On Monday, ByteDance put out a statement on the Chinese blogging platform Toutiao, where it tried to play down speculation that it was giving up control of TikTok, asserting that it will continue to hold an 80% stake in TikTok Global after the deal is complete.
However, speaking to Fox News, Trump said that ByteDance will “have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won’t make the deal. It’s going to be controlled, totally controlled by Oracle… and if we find that they don’t have total control then we’re not going to approve the deal.”
Signaling that Beijing may reject the deal being touted by Trump, the Global Times editorial states, “It’s hard for us to believe that Beijing will approve such an agreement.” Any deal will require approval from the Chinese government, ByteDance said last week. This is because the Chinese government added AI technologies—including ‘‘personalized content recommendation” tools like the one used by TikTok—to its export controls list last month.
On Saturday, Trump asserted that the companies involved in the deal have agreed to commit $5 billion towards a fund for the U.S. government which he plans to use to “educate people” about the “real history” of the country. But in its blog post, ByteDance contested Trump’s claim. ByteDance argued that Trump’s $5 billion figure was simply an estimate of the amount of taxes the new company, TikTok Global, would pay over several years if the business is successful.
The confusion around the nature of the proposed TikTok deal stems from contradictory statements made by the key players. On Saturday, TikTok announced that Oracle and Walmart agreed to acquire a 20% stake in TikTok’s global business as part of a pre-IPO financing round, moments after President Donald Trump told the press that he had given his “blessing” to the deal. As part of this deal, Oracle has agreed to acquire 12.5% of the video-sharing platform, while Walmart will hold a 7.5% stake, but that now looks to be at risk. In a statement shared with Forbes, Oracle executive vice president Ken Glueck echoed Trump’s position stating“Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global,” without offering any additional details. Meanwhile, as Trump insists Oracle will control TikTok, the company doesn’t appear to have a seat on TikTok Global’s new board as ByteDance says the board will include its founder and current directors, along with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. Glueck’s belief that Americans will control TikTok Global comes from the fact that U.S. citizens make up the majority of the board, while U.S. investors in ByteDance, Walmart and Oracle may end up holding a majority stake in the newly-created company, according to CNBC.