Chinese social media giant TikTok has reportedly postponed plans to build a global headquarters in London as concerns about Beijing's influence increase in the UK.
TikTok, a viral video app popular with teenagers, had had talks with the Ministry of International Trade and No. 10 to build a global base in the capital.
The app, with 800 million users, was planning to invest up to £ 3 billion in Britain's home outside of China and, according to sources, would have created around 3,000 jobs.
TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, has now decided to suspend these negotiations due to the "broader geographic context," the Sunday Times reported.
Chinese social media giant TikTok has reportedly put off plans to build a global UK headquarters as concerns about Beijing's influence increase in the UK
The move comes amid growing tensions between London and Beijing due to government criticism of the Hong Kong Security Act and the recent decision to ban Huawei from the UK 5G network.
An unnamed source has reportedly told the paper that plans could be revived if China-Britain relations improved. However, they added that a decision would not be made "shortly".
TikTok said in a statement: "We remain committed to investing in London, fostering creativity and delighting our users around the world."
Meanwhile, a government spokesman added: & # 39; ByteDance's decision about the location of its global headquarters is a commercial decision for the company.
"The UK is a fair and open investment market where it supports growth and jobs in the UK."
In Washington, TikToks, Beijing-based owner ByteDance, is considering being blacklisted to prevent Americans from downloading and using the app.
The viral video app had intended London as a possible location for its headquarters as part of an obvious attempt to distance itself from the Chinese Communist Party
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (photo), who opposes the app, will arrive in London to meet Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Dominic Raab to discuss topics such as China
White House officials are also considering alternative plans, including the possibility of TikTok continuing to operate as long as the company separates from its Chinese parent company and is headquartered in the United States rather than the United Kingdom.
Sources familiar with the matter last night said London is still being considered as an option for headquarters. However, they warned that the company should consider the impact of the U.S. government's plans and the company's operations.
Banning the app in the U.S. with nearly 50 million users would be a major blow to the company.
Tomorrow, a violent critic of the company, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will arrive in London to meet Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Dominic Raab to discuss topics such as China and the coronavirus pandemic.
There is growing speculation that he will take the opportunity to highlight the company as a tool of the Chinese state.
When asked in the Fox News earlier this month whether US citizens should download TikTok, Mr. Pompeo said, "Only if you want your private information to be in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."
He also threatened to ban ByteDance by putting it on the United States' Entity List. Officials have said a decision could come within weeks.
London, Singapore and Dublin were among the locations that TikTok considered, as suggested in December. No US cities have made the shortlist.
But now TikTok might be forced to build an important base in the US to save its business there.
Britain has decided to ban Huawei from operating large parts of its 5G network this week. The government has set 2027 as a deadline for removing the entire Huawei kit
TikTok currently has no official headquarters, although the top manager is based in Shanghai.
Senior ministers are already expected to push for TikTok to be banned in the UK because of its ties to the Chinese state.
TikTok denies that this is a security risk. It is said that it never provided user data to the Chinese government and would refuse to do so on request.
However, critics of the company say that China's intelligence laws force Internet companies like TikTok to provide data to the Communist government if they request it.
It comes days after the UK decided to ban Huawei from operating large parts of its 5G network. Mobile operators will no longer be allowed to buy any more 5G devices from the Chinese company as of December 31.
The government has set 2027 as a deadline for removing the entire Huawei kit.
Like TikTok, Huawei is a private company, but its founder is a former member of the People's Liberation Army, and there are fears that the Chinese government could use its power to request access to sensitive information.
TikTok has attempted to resolve concerns about its ties to the Chinese state by hiring an American executive, former Disney executive Kevin Meyer. Over the past few months, the company has strengthened its political team to combat the growing political dispute over the company's relationship with China.
Among the recruits was Theo Bertram, a former advisor to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
TikTok has been growing in popularity since it was founded in 2017 and is expected to have more than ten million users by next year
Further measures include the withdrawal from Hong Kong as part of the controversial security laws that give Beijing more power.
The company also tried to differentiate the western TikTok app from the Chinese version known as Douyin.
India banned Chinese-owned apps like TikTok and WeChat at the end of last month, as there are similar concerns that data will be shared with the Chinese Communist Party. Australia is also considering a ban.
Since its launch in the UK in 2017, TikTok has become increasingly popular and is expected to have more than ten million users by next year.
The company was in London on a hype that has tacitly developed into its largest office in Europe. The largest office is located in Los Angeles and there are branches in Paris, Dublin and Berlin.
A ByteDance spokesman said: “Great Britain is one of our most important markets worldwide, with a talented and diverse team in London, including executives.
& # 39; UK employees have quadrupled in the past year and we expect continued strong growth.
"We remain committed to investing in London, fostering creativity and bringing joy to our users around the world through our products and platforms."
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