Chinese Embassy Holds Closed-Door Meetings with Congressional Staff to Lobby Against TikTok Legislation

According to Politico, the Chinese Embassy has engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions with congressional staff members to push back against proposed legislation that could lead to the sale or prohibition of TikTok in the United States.

Reportedly, embassy officials initiated these meetings shortly after a decisive vote in the House of Representatives in favor of the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. Although the initial contact did not explicitly mention TikTok, an embassy official purportedly conveyed the Chinese ambassador’s interest in discussing the legislation during a phone call with Capitol Hill staffers.

The legislation in question aims to compel TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest itself of the platform or face a ban on the popular social media app within the U.S. Despite passing the House with a substantial majority in March, the bill is encountering obstacles in the Senate.

TikTok has consistently denied any affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, a former high-ranking ByteDance employee has alleged that CCP members within the company possess significant access to American users’ data and influence the app’s content, aligning it with the CCP’s interests, as indicated by a recent study by the Network Contagion Research Institute and Rutgers University.

Michael Sobolik, a senior fellow specializing in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, characterized the Chinese Embassy’s lobbying efforts as inadvertently highlighting TikTok’s strategic importance to the CCP. Sobolik suggested that losing control of the app would diminish Beijing’s influence over American audiences.

During the closed-door meetings, Chinese Embassy officials reportedly downplayed concerns about TikTok’s impact on national security. They argued that forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok would harm American investors and emphasized that not all members of ByteDance’s board are Chinese nationals. However, the embassy’s characterization of TikTok as a Chinese company contradicts the platform’s attempts to distance itself from its Chinese roots.

TikTok responded to Politico’s report by stating that the anonymous sources’ claims lacked credibility. The company expressed surprise at the reported meetings. Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy did not deny holding such discussions, asserting its intention to clarify the TikTok issue to various segments of American society.

One Capitol Hill staffer, speaking anonymously, highlighted the Chinese Embassy’s previous efforts to oppose U.S. policies targeting Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications giant facing allegations of significant national security risks.

At the time of reporting, TikTok had not provided a response to requests for comment.

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