ByteDance asks China for licence to export tech as deadline nears

ByteDance asks China for licence to export tech as deadline nears

ByteDance has applied to the Chinese government for permission to export its technology as the company races to finalise a deal and prevent its viral video app TikTok from being blocked in the US.

The social media group said on Thursday it had applied to Beijing’s municipal commerce bureau for the licence after authorities in August revised export controls to include the algorithms that power TikTok.

The change gave Beijing more sway over any deal affecting TikTok’s US operations, making the granting of an export licence potentially crucial to any final agreement.

ByteDance is negotiating with US groups Oracle and Walmart over a deal to satisfy demands by US President Donald Trump that the Chinese company cede control of TikTok’s US operations for national security reasons.

The parties are seeking to complete a deal prior to a proposed Trump administration ban that would block downloads of TikTok in the US, which is due to take effect this Sunday.

But ByteDance and its US suitors have publicly disagreed on the final terms of a deal. Disagreement has centred on who would own TikTok Global, the new US-based company that would be created under the transaction, as well as who would control TikTok’s algorithm.

If ByteDance’s application for the licence is accepted, guidelines state that it would have to be approved or denied within 30 business days. However, Chinese regulators have previously allowed some controversial applications for licences to languish by never formally accepting them.

Editorials published by several Chinese state media groups this week signalled Beijing is reluctant to sign off on a deal that could put control of the short-video app in the hands of Americans. 

ByteDance said this week that the proposed deal did not involve the transfer of technology or source code. But Oracle and Walmart have said that TikTok Global would control all of the app’s technology.

TikTok separately went to court in the US on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the Trump administration from blocking downloads of the video-sharing app.