TikTok lawsuit could coincide with Trump's convention kick-off

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – TikTok plans to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s administration as soon as Monday (Aug 24) over an executive order banning transactions with the Chinese app in the United States, the company has said.

The move comes on the first day of the Republican National Convention, four days of celebrating a president who’s made “tough on China” a centrepiece of his re-election bid and has dangled the idea of decoupling from China altogether.

TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, said last Saturday that it would challenge the order banning transactions with the popular social media app.

The company said it “strongly disagreed” with concerns raised by Mr Trump.

He subsequently gave it a 90-day deadline to divest its US operations.

The skirmish is the latest between the Trump administration and China as November’s US vote approaches and Mr Trump makes his case for a second term.

It’s likely to come up frequently during the Republican meeting, at which Mr Trump is expected to speak each night and multiple members of his family will also appear.

The topic that Americans are “going to hear from Donald J. Trump is how we are going to fight China and the China virus”, Mr Peter Navarro, White House trade adviser, said on Fox News on Sunday.

China on Monday said some American politicians had “attempted to strangle” TikTok, WeChat, Huawei Technologies and other Chinese companies.

“China supports the relevant Chinese companies using legal weapons to safeguard their legitimate rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing.

“China will also continue to use all necessary measures to protect Chinese enterprises’ legitimate rights.”

DECOUPLING THREAT

“We are coming hard at the China virus,” said Mr Navarro, using a slur for Covid-19 popular with Mr Trump and his administration.

The president, in an interview to air on Fox News on Sunday night, raised the idea of a total split from China, according to an advance transcript from the network.

“You were asking a second question, would you ever just decouple? Not do business with China? Because you know, we don’t have to,” Mr Trump said.

“Well it’s something that if they don’t treat us right I would certainly, I would certainly do that.”

China pushed back at Mr Trump’s comments, saying a move to decouple would only hurt US companies.

“Attempts to use decoupling to solve one country’s own problem are like ‘drinking poison to quench thirst,'” said Mr Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, using a Chinese idiom.

“China and the US should advocate cooperation, instead of decoupling, to advance bilateral ties.”

Chinese and US officials were scheduled to talk over the weekend about the current state of the countries’ phase one trade deal.

No readout has come as of Sunday night in Washington.

PREFERENCE FOR BIDEN

Republican officials have also criticised Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for not mentioning China during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last week.

At the Republican gathering, advisers want Mr Trump focused on the economy and the coronavirus.

When those two subjects come up, China is usually not far behind.

“You’ve seen the intelligence reports: China very much wants Joe Biden to win,” Mr Trump said last Friday in remarks to a conservative group.

“That would be very insulting if they wanted me to win. I don’t think so.”

The Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, opined last week that Mr Biden would be “smoother” to deal with for Beijing, a comment seized upon by Republicans.

“The proposed Democrat platform on foreign policy showed that if Biden wins, the US will remain tough on China,” the paper wrote.

“But tactically, the US approach would be more predictable, and Biden is much smoother to deal with than Trump – a viewpoint that is shared by many countries.”

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