TikTok ban could escalate US-China trade war, ex-White House CIO tells The Reg

Doing business in Beijing? 'You need to do a what-if scenario'

interview It didn't seem America's divest-or-ban bill for TikTok was going to make it into law when we last spoke with former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton – but law it now is. 

With President Biden signing off that legislation and ByteDance considering its options and appeals, we caught up with Payton to chat about TikTok's fate after previously discussing the matter earlier this month.

Payton tells us a whole host of fresh questions are on the table now, including whether this could escalate the China-US trade war. You can watch our full conversation below.

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She cited past Chinese practices of banning US organizations from the Middle Kingdom - such as Google and Western social media – and said there's no reason American businesses with a presence there shouldn't expect retaliation.

"I would caution other American headquartered companies who do sell to Chinese citizens or conduct manufacturing, or do provide platform services to the citizens of China: You need to be looking at this, and you need to do a what-if scenario," Payton said. 

In addition to potential trade war escalation, it's also not clear how this sell-or-ban law for TikTok will shake out when it inevitably winds up in court. Whether TikTok is currently failing some objective national security test or being unfairly targeted, whether there's a First Amendment argument to be made, and even whether the Biden reelection campaign is undermining congressional justification for the bill by remaining on the app, are all in the mix, too.

And here, less than a month ago, we were worried about things as quaint as how American companies with a presence on TikTok should deal with the impact. A week is a long time in politics. ®

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