INVESTORS IN BYTEDANCE have got used to being caught between superpowers. They were still taken aback on August 28th, when an update to China’s export-licensing regime blocked the sale of the hot Chinese technology firm’s prize asset—the American arm of TikTok, a short-video app—to American firms and investors.
A Chinese riposte to President Donald Trump’s campaign against TikTok was inevitable. He contends it could give China’s Communist Party means to spy on Americans and conduct disinformation campaigns. TikTok’s assurances that it does not censor content unflattering to Beijing orsend personal data to China have fallen on deaf ears. Last month Mr Trump issued two executive orders aimed at TikTok, the most recent of which will ban it in the United States if it is not in American ownership by November 12th.
Microsoft and Oracle, two software giants, put in rival bids of around $25bn-30bn for TikTok’s operations in four markets—America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Oracle enlisted some American venture-capital backers of ByteDance, including Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic. It would be more hands-off than Microsoft and could let ByteDance or its founder, Zhang Yiming, reinvest in TikTok later on. A strategic sale to Microsoft would be more definitive. But Mr Zhang favoured it, according to people close to...
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