US Pressure Could Derail TikTok’s Plans Of A London HQ

Pressure by the United States over the future of the Chinese firm owned app TikTok in the US could jeopardize the plan of the Chinese firm to shift its international headquarters in the United Kingdom.

Talks with the UK government to create a new international based HQ in London have been held by the Chinese firm ByteDance, the owner of the video sharing app TikTOk. However these plans could get derailed because the US administration is contemplating putting a ban on TikTok, which can only be prevented if the company completely split from China and transforms itself into an American company.

“We remain fully committed to investing in London,” said a ByteDance spokesman.

“ByteDance’s decision on the location of their global HQ is a commercial decision for the company,” said spokeswoman for the UK Department for International Trade.

This development comes at a time when tensions between the UK and China have heightened over the decision of the UK government to ban the Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei from the country’s 5G network construction and to remove the company’s equipment from all telecom networks by 2027.

There are concerns about a prompt ti-for-tat economic war between the two countries.

“We are still evaluating the consequences. This is a very bad decision,” said Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming.

“We do not want to politicise the economy. That is wrong,” said Liu when he was asked whether China would punish UK companies operating in China.

He however said: “It is wrong for the United Kingdom to discriminate [against a] Chinese company because of pressure from the United States.”

A number of sanctions against Huawei have already been imposed by the United States. The Chinese telecom equipment firm has been accused by the Trump administration of having backdoors that can be used by Chinese agencies to spy on the US and even possibly launch cyber attacks on countries where the company’s equipment is used for in their telecom networks.

All such allegations have been strongly denied by Huawei.

It was “hard to predict” the possible retaliation by the Chinese government to the decision of the UK government with Huawei, said George Magnus, research associate at University of Oxford China Centre. “But we expect British companies will be in the crosshairs of all of this,” he said.

For British companies, China  is an important market.

For example, for the Tata Motors owned Jaguar Land Rover, China is an important market. The company took a debt of £560m from five Chinese banks last month following a slump in sale due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Chins companies are also a major investor in the UK – particularly in the nuclear industry. About £3.6bn has been invested in the UK by China General Nuclear Power Corporation, including the Hinkley Point nuclear power project in Somerset.

“Post-Covid, promoting trade will be an important plank of our recovery, so we must think carefully about a future relationship that balances UK global competitiveness with wider interests,” said Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry.

“We do not want to politicise the economy,” Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming claimed to the BBC about potential repercussions for UK businesses based in China after the government U-turn on Huawei.

(Adapted from

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