President Donald Trump on Monday threw into doubt a deal to restructure ownership of the popular video app TikTok, vowing to block any deal that allows its Chinese parent firm to retain any control.
The comments raised fresh concerns over a weekend deal that appeared to avert a US-ordered ban of TikTok, which the Trump administration has called a national security risk.
The deal would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the data partner for TikTok with retail giant Walmart also taking a stake in a new entity to be called TikTok Global.
But details of the plan remained unclear, amid differing accounts on the American and Chinese shares of the new firm, and who would be in control of the data and algorithms.
Trump on Monday told Fox News that TikTok’s Chinese parent firm ByteDance “will have nothing to do with it and if they do, then we just won’t make the deal.”
He added Oracle and Walmart “are going to have total control over it. They’re going to own the controlling interest… If we find they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal.”
ByteDance, under pressure in China not to give in to US demands, said it would hold an 80 percent stake in TikTok Global after a public share offering.
The Chinese firm said the current plan “does not involve the transfer of any algorithms and technologies” and that reports to the contrary were “rumors.”
A separate statement from Oracle offered a different view of the transaction.
“Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global,” Oracle vice president Ken Glueck said.
TikTok — which became a global phenomenon with its brand of short, addictive phone videos — has come under fire in recent months as tensions escalate between China and the west.
Trump has increasingly put national security and his aggressive stance toward China at the center of his campaign, claiming without providing evidence that TikTok is collecting user data for Beijing.
The UK’s coronavirus alert level is being upgraded from 3 to 4, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially”, its chief medical officers have said.
It comes after the government’s scientific adviser warned there could be 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action.
The prime minister will make a statement in the Commons on Tuesday.
On Monday, a further 4,368 daily cases were reported in the UK, up from 3,899.
A further 11 people have also died within 28 days of getting a positive test, although these figures tend to be lower over the weekend and on Mondays due to reporting delays.
In a statement confirming their recommendation, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said cases were now “rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations”.
They urged people to follow government guidelines “to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS” over the autumn and winter.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move reflected “the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus”.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” he said.
The alert level, which is recommended by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, was reduced from level 4 to 3 on 19 June – which indicated the virus was “in general circulation” but there could be a “gradual relaxation of restrictions”.
The proposed upgrading comes as the PM prepares to chair a Cobra emergency meeting on Tuesday morning.
Speaking at Downing Street earlier, alongside chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days… if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.
“Fifty-thousand cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.
“The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.
“That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”
The move to level 4 should not come as a surprise given the warning from the UK’s two most senior pandemic advisers this morning.
Infections are rising – although some experts question whether the situation is as dire as Prof Chris Witty and Sir Patrick Vallance set out when they raised the prospect of 50,000 cases a day by mid-October.