TikTok puts talks of London HQ on hold as UK-China tensions mount
TikTok was mulling plans of building its headquarters in the UK for its non-China business but has now pulled back as UK and China deal with a ‘tit-for-tat trade war’ of sorts. This decision to not build an HQ in London threatens the creation of at least 3,000 jobs.
Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, had spent months negotiating with the Department of International Trade and government officials to expand operations in the UK, according to a Guardian report. The talks now stand suspended after ByteDance executives brought up the wider geopolitical context with UK recently banning Huawei from setting up Britain’s 5G network.
Reports state that TikTok was hopeful about gaining concessions for building an HQ in London but will now be looking at cities like Dublin etc where many of its staff are already located.
The decision to pull back on a London HQ plan heightens the possibility of China using commercial relationships to get back at UK following the “diplomatic dispute” over the recent clampdown on security in Hong Kong as well as the oppression of the Uighurs in China.
Critics are of the opinion that TikTok, which has almost one billion users worldwide, is a spying tool for Beijing and should be banned. ByteDance has denied all data-sharing allegations and has also pointed out that it has an American chief executive and several US board members.
India banned TikTok last month and currently, the Trump administration is considering plans of doing the same. Trump has threatened to ban the app to punish China for the coronavirus pandemic.
However, UK officials are hopeful that talks with ByteDance will resume once it has been made clear in diplomatic channels that Britain banning Huawei was the result of the pressure from the US.
According to reports, Huawei has been told via high-level, behind-the-scenes contacts that UK’s decision to ban the company might be revisited in the future, perhaps if Trump fails to secure a second term in office and Washington’s anti-China stance is eased.