The Biden administration "indefinitely" paused discussions with TikTok to sell the company to American investors, a significant victory for a tech firm that employs an army of D.C. lobbyists, including some with ties to the Biden team.
The Trump White House ordered TikTok to sell its U.S. operations to an American company last summer, responding to concerns that the popular social media app's data collection allowed Beijing to snoop on Americans. The Biden administration shelved the forced sale plan, leaving it in doubt whether TikTok will follow through on its Trump-approved deal to sell off its U.S. business to Oracle and Walmart.
In response to growing government scrutiny, TikTok has spent more than $4 million to hire numerous Republican and Democratic lobbyists since October 2019. The TikTok lobbying team includes former Louisiana senator John Breaux (D.), a veteran legislator who served alongside Biden for more than two decades, and David Castagnetti, previously a chief of staff to former Montana senator Max Baucus (D.), a Biden China adviser who frequently appears on Chinese state media.
The halt, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is a major victory for TikTok, which has also successfully batted off some of the Trump administration's attempts to shut down its U.S. operations in the court system. In December, a federal judge overturned a Trump executive order that would have banned the app from the U.S. market. The Justice Department appealed the case, but experts told Business Insider that it is unlikely Biden will fight hard to keep the ban.
The reprieve granted to TikTok is the latest development in the Biden White House's ongoing review of the Trump administration's confrontational approach to China. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden's pick for U.N. envoy, said the State Department is "reviewing" Trump's genocide declaration for China's brutal crackdown in Xinjiang during her confirmation hearing. And while Biden officials continue to call China a "strategic competitor," they also emphasize the need to cooperate with the country on climate change and other issues.