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.


Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

Updated 24 January 2021

Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries remains steady amid the ongoing global health crisis

RIYADH:  Saudi imports from China rose 17.8 percent year-on- year in 2020 to $28.1 billion, according to a report from Mubasher, citing figures from China Customs.

Despite this increase, the Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion, the report said.

Trading between the two nations has remained steady.
On Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported that Chinese govern- ment data showed the Kingdom was still the world’s biggest oil exporter, as well as beating Russia to keep its ranking as China’s top crude supplier in 2020.

Oil demand in China, the world’s top oil importer, remained strong last year despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Chinese imports rose 7.3 percent to a record 542.4 million tons, or 10.85 million barrels per day (bpd).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons.
  • The Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion.
  • In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time

Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons, or about 1.69 million bpd, data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs showed.

Political commentator Zaid M. Belbagi wrote in an Arab News opinion piece that, with the increased importance of land and sea routes connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, China increasingly saw relations with the Arab world as “central” to its geostrategic ambitions.

“There is, however, a disconnect between the expansion of Chinese involvement in the region across the political and economic realms and the cultural and diplomatic connectivity required to deepen ties that will not only ensure Chinese interests, but also encourage Arab states to partake in the new world China is building in its own image,” he said.

Saudi-China relations have strengthened over the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ties were further strengthened with the two countries offering each other assistance and staunch support.

The past three years have marked a rapid increase in Saudi- China links. King Salman visited the country as part of a six-country Asian tour early in 2017, setting the seal on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two
countries when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A joint high-level committee was established to guide future economic development strategy.

That was followed by a later visit by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, adding greater depth to the relationship and further aligning the two countries’ main economic development plans — the Belt and Road Initiative by which China seeks to play a leading role in regional development, and the Vision 2030 strategy aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia away from oil dependency.

China has also become the top export destination of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petrochemicals and chemicals, accounting for about 25 percent of GCC exports.


At $180 billion, the GCC (GCC) trade with China accounts for over 11 percent of the bloc’s overall trade. In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time.

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