There was twist after twist in the Tiktok drama over the weekend. US President Donald Trump said Saturday he had approved a deal that involves software maker Oracle and retail giant Walmart, but it falls short of an outright Tiktok divestment. Chinese parent company Bytedance denied some of Trump’s claims that the new Tiktok company would have nothing to do with China. Meanwhile, Chinese officials criticized the US for lacking “internet freedom.”

The deal: Bytedance, Oracle, and Walmart will form a new company called Tiktok Global as part of the deal, CNBC reported Saturday.

  • Oracle was chosen as Tiktok’s secure cloud provider and will hold a 12.5% stake of Tiktok Global.
  • Walmart said it would purchase a 7.5% stake in the new company and its CEO Doug McMillon would serve as one of the directors of the five-member board.
  • Bytedance will own the remaining 80% of Tiktok Global.
  • Walmart and Oracle said in a joint statement that Tiktok Global will pay more than $5 billion in new taxes to the US Treasury Department.

Trump’s blessing: Trump said Saturday that he had approved the deal “in concept.” But the deal still needs formal approval from his administration. “I give the deal my blessing,” Trump told reporters.

  • Trump also said the deal would involve “about a $5 billion contribution toward education.”
  • “It will be a brand-new company,” said Trump, who also said that Tiktok Global would “have nothing to do with China.”
  • Trump’s remarks seem to contradict the facts, but as CNBC pointed out: “Because 40% of Bytedance is owned by US venture capital firms, the Trump administration can technically claim Tiktok Global is now majority owned by US money.”

What Bytedance says: In a slightly different narrative, Bytedance said in a statement (in Chinese) Monday on its Jinri Toutiao news aggregator that it currently owns 100% of Tiktok Global, and that the company plans to launch pre-IPO fundraising which will give investors—Oracle and Walmart—a combined 20% stake.

  • Neither the algorithm nor the company’s technology will be transferred in the deal, said Bytedance. Oracle would instead have the permission to review its code.
  • Bytedance also said the reported “$5 billion new taxes to the US Treasury Department” is an “estimate of taxes Tiktok will pay over the next few years” and that it has nothing to do with the deal.
  • Bytedance denied Trump’s statement that the deal involves a $5 billion contribution toward education. “We heard from the news as well that there would be a $5 billion education fund,” Bytedance said in the statement.
  • Zhang Yiming, the CEO and founder of Bytedance, will be one of the directors on Tiktok Global’s board, the company said.

Are apps still getting banned? On Friday, Reuters first reported that the Trump administration would ban Tiktok and Wechat from US app stores starting Sunday night. However, with Trump saying he approved the Tiktok deal, the Commerce Department said it would delay the plan of barring the video-sharing app from US app stores for one week.

  • A US federal court halted a ban against Chinese instant-messaging app Wechat late Saturday, the Washington Post reported. 
  • The US District Court in San Francisco said in an order that the plaintiffs, a group of Wechat users, had shown there are “serious questions” related to their First Amendment claim.
  • In August, TechNode reported that the group, called the US Wechat Users Alliance, filed a lawsuit against Trump’s executive order to ban transactions between US citizens and Wechat.
  • “Where [Judge Laurel Beeler] came down was essentially on the side of the Chinese-speaking communities in the US, and said that the ban was too broad,” Greg Pilarowski, founder of tech advisory firm Pillar Legal, told TechNode on Tuesday.
  • “I think Wechat is safe, unless Trump wins” the US presidential election in November, Pilarowski added.

Chinese media takes: On Monday, most major Chinese media outlets reprinted an article titled “Does Tiktok really harm US national security? Why did Oracle fail in the Chinese market? Chinese enterprises storms overseas” (our translation), authored by the National Supervisory Commission of China and Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the ruling Communist Party. It was first published on a website that the two government agencies share.

  • The article is a rare direct comment from Chinese government agencies on the recent Tiktok drama. 
  • “As a matter of fact, the United States, which promotes ‘internet freedom,’ never neglects its regulation of the internet,” the article said. “We can say that the US has the world’s strictest regulation on the internet.”
  • Chinese newspaper Securities Times reported that a number of companies listed on China’s A-share markets which investors believe stand to benefit from Bytedance’s business activities, called “Bytedance concept stock,” had risen around 3.4% on Monday morning with one of the best performers jumping nearly 12%.
  • International Financial News, an arm of party mouthpiece People’s Daily, wrote Monday that the upshot of the Tiktok drama “has yet to come.”
  • The newspaper pointed out that while Trump had approved the deal, it still needs to gain approval from the Chinese government, because, it said, the algorithms Tiktok use are now subject to China’s new export restrictions.
  • Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid Global Times, wrote on Twitter Monday that he knows that the Chinese government won’t approve the deal. “…because the agreement would endanger China’s national security, interests, and dignity.”
  • Chinese financial magazine Caixin named the three other Tiktok Global board members. They are Arthur Dantchik, founder of Susquehanna Growth Equity (SIG); William Ford, CEO of General Atlantic; and “an executive from the American operations of Sequoia Capital.” SIG, General Atlantic, and Sequoia Capital are all Bytedance investors.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...