Friday, December 4

Trump Targets WeChat and TikTok, in Sharp Escalation With China


A press officer for Microsoft declined to comment.

In a statement on Friday, TikTok said it was “shocked” by the executive order, which it said risked “undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law.”

“We will pursue all remedies available to us,” the statement said, “in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly — if not by the administration, then by the U.S. courts.”

At a daily news briefing Friday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin called the executive orders a “nakedly hegemonic act” and added, “on the pretext of national security, the U.S. frequently abuses national power and unreasonably suppresses relevant enterprises.”

TikTok is in talks with at least three other American companies, including Microsoft, regarding a potential acquisition of TikTok’s business. Last week, Microsoft said it planned to pursue the negotiations for a purchase of TikTok’s service in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would do so by Sept. 15.

Mr. Trump for weeks has been urged to intervene with TikTok, and by a range of advisers. Many of those advisers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had counseled Mr. Trump to follow the recommendations of a national security panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and allow Microsoft or another suitor to buy the Chinese-owned service.

But other advisers, like the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, pushed for more sweeping action. By Friday evening, as the president flew back to Washington from Florida, Mr. Trump told reporters that he did not want TikTok to be acquired by an American company and that he would use his presidential authority to bar TikTok from operating in the United States.

That position did not last long. Mr. Mnuchin and other officials scrambled to find people who would intervene with the president, imploring people like Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, to explain to the president why the Microsoft deal was a good option. Mr. Graham and Mr. Mnuchin cautioned Mr. Trump about a risky political calculation if TikTok simply went dark.



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