New tech export controls could give Beijing a say in TikTok sale

People are seen at the Bytedance Technology booth at the Digital China Exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 31 August 2020

New tech export controls could give Beijing a say in TikTok sale

  • China has revised a list of technologies that are banned or restricted for export for the first time in 12 years

SHANGHAI: China’s new rules around tech exports mean ByteDance’s sale of TikTok’s US operations could need Beijing’s approval, a Chinese trade expert told state media, a requirement that would complicate the forced and politically charged divestment.

ByteDance has been ordered by President Donald Trump to divest short video app TikTok in the United States amid security concerns over the personal data it handles. Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. are among the suitors for the assets, which also includes TikTok’s Canada, New Zealand and Australia operations.

However, China late on Friday revised a list of technologies that are banned or restricted for export for the first time in 12 years. Cui Fan, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the changes would apply to TikTok.

“If ByteDance plans to export related technologies, it should go through the licensing procedures,” Cui said in an interview with Xinhua published on Saturday.

China’s Ministry of Commerce added 23 items — including technologies such as personal information push services based on data analysis and artificial intelligence interactive interface technology — to the restricted list.

It can take up to 30 days to obtain preliminary approval to export the technology.

“We are studying the new regulations that were released Friday. As with any cross-border transaction, we will follow the applicable laws, which in this case include those of the United States and China,” ByteDance general counsel Erich Andersen said.

TikTok’s secret weapon is believed to be its recommendation engine that keeps users glued to their screens. This engine, or algorithm, powers TikTok’s “For You” page, which recommends the next video to watch based on an analysis of your behavior.

Cui noted that ByteDance’s development overseas had relied on its domestic technology that provided the core algorithm and said the company may need to transfer software codes or usage rights to the new owner of TikTok from China to overseas.

“Therefore, it is recommended that ByteDance seriously studies the adjusted catalogue and carefully considers whether it is necessary to suspend” negotiations on a sale, he added.

China’s Foreign Ministry has said it opposes the executive orders Trump has placed on TikTok and that Beijing will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.


Lebanon plunged into ‘deliberate depression’: World Bank

Updated 01 December 2020

Lebanon plunged into ‘deliberate depression’: World Bank

  • The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year
  • Lebanon’s economy started collapsing last year as a result of years of corrupt practices and mismanagement

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economy is sinking into a “deliberate depression,” the World Bank said Tuesday in a damning report stressing the authorities’ failure to tackle the crisis.
The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year and projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 194 percent next year.
“A year into Lebanon’s severe economic crisis, deliberate lack of effective policy action by authorities has subjected the economy to an arduous and prolonged depression,” a World Bank statement said.
Lebanon’s economy started collapsing last year as a result of years of corrupt practices and mismanagement.
The crisis was made worse by a nationwide wave of anti-government protests that paralyzed the country late last year and the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
The August 4 Beirut port blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, brought the country to its knees and further fueled public distrust.
“Lebanon is suffering from a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, with brain drain becoming an increasingly desperate option,” the World Bank warned.
In 2020, Lebanon defaulted on its debt, banks imposed capital controls and inflation has reached triple-digit rates, dragging the country into its worst ever economic crisis.
Instead of taking emergency measures to rescue the economy, Lebanon’s political elite has continued to dither and bicker.
The previous government headed by Hassan Diab failed to adopt ambitious policies to tackle the crisis. It resigned under pressure over the blast nearly four months ago and a new cabinet has yet to be formed.
“Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon’s ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director.
He called for the quick formation of a new government capable of implementing short-term emergency measures and addressing long-term structural challenges.
“This is imperative to restore the confidence of the people of Lebanon,” he said.
An annual index compiled by Gallup that tracks people’s experience of stress and sadness said “no other country in the world saw negative experiences skyrocket across the board as much as Lebanon.”
The Negative Experience Index’s data was collected before the Beirut port blast, Lebanon’s worst ever peace time disaster.