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China would rather see TikTok US close than a forced sale

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(Reuters) – Beijing opposes a forced sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations by its Chinese owner ByteDance, and would prefer to see the short video app shut down in the United States, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok s U.S. business to potential buyers including Microsoft MSFT.O and Oracle ORCL.N since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened last month to ban the service if it was not sold.

Trump has given ByteDance a deadline of mid September to finalise a deal.

However, Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

ByteDance said in a statement to Reuters that the Chinese government had never suggested to it that it should shut down TikTok in the United States or in any other markets.

Two of the sources said China was willing to use revisions it made to a technology exports list on Aug. 28 to delay any deal reached by ByteDance, if it had to.

China’s State Council Information Office and its foreign and commerce ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent after working hours.

Asked on Friday about Trump and TikTok, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing that the United States was abusing the concept of national security, and urged it to stop oppressing foreign companies. 

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