Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Donald Trump extorts China’s ByteDance into selling the TikTok app to Microsoft by Sept. 15, or else he threatens to shut it down in the US.
Zhang Yiming, ByteDance CEO and founder of TikTok, told employees he had no choice but to comply with Trump’s demands to sell the app.
The Don then upped the ante, saying the US deserves a piece of the action.
“The US should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible,” said Trump. “It would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that’s the way I think, and I think it’s very fair.”
The president got that right. Nobody thinks the US government should get involved in shaking down private companies.
And who is going to fork over the cash? Microsoft or TikTok? And where does the money go? The US Treasury or Trump Organization?
Eric Lutz of Vanity Fair believes the TikTok move is an example of Trump’s transactional approach, one “that feels more mafia-like than business-like, akin to the oil he wanted to keep as a souvenir for America’s Middle East adventures or the medical supplies during the coronavirus crisis he’s seemed to disburse to states based on how willing their governors were to kiss his ring.”
With Trump, it all boils down to the belief that “he or his government should be getting something in return," wrote Lutz.
The Chinese media have attacked Trump for the attempted “smash and grab” of TikTok.
Wang Wenbin, a Foreign Ministry of Affairs spokesperson, also warned: “If everyone were to follow the US’s practice, then anyone can invoke national security to take similar measures against a US company. The US should not open this Pandora’s box otherwise it will swallow the bitter fruit.”
Trump's TikTok shakedown adds to the tensions between the US and China.
He will certainly step up his China-bashing as Election Day draws near. With the raging COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse, Trump views the China card as part of a winning hand.