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TikTok shelves plans for European HQ in London over China tensions

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  • The Chinese social media platform TikTok has reportedly shelved plans to open a European headquarters in London,  according to the Sunday Times.
  • TikTok, the wildly popular viral video app, had been in talks with the British government to follow the likes of Apple and Amazon by opening a new office in the UK.
  • But the plans are reportedly in doubt because of escalating political tensions between Beijing and London, after Boris Johnson said he would ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from Britain’s 5G network.
  • It comes as hostilities between London and Beijing threaten to escalate into a punishing economic war.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Chinese social media platform TikTok has reportedly shelved plans to open a European headquarters in London, as hostilities between London and Beijing threaten to escalate into a punishing economic war.

TikTok, a viral video app with 800 million global users, had been in talks with the British government to open a new office in the UK, which would have employed 3,000 people, according to the Sunday Times.

But its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, has now put the plans on hold because of the “wider geopolitical context, said the Sunday Times report.

The move comes after Boris Johnson this week said Britain would ban Chinese tech giant Huawei, which works closely with the Chinese government, from its 5G network. It prompted a furious reaction from Beijing, where state media called for Britain to suffer “pain” as a result.

Britain also infuriated China by offering visas to 3 million Hong Kong residents after Beijing imposed a controversial new security law, which has already seen hundreds of pro-democracy protesters arrested.

ByteDance, which owns TikTok, also has allegedly close links with the Chinese government, and works with state-owned media firms there.

Security concerns around firms that are based in China have led the US to consider a complete ban on Americans downloading the app. Any such ban would be a significant blow to TikTok’s operations, as the app has 50 million users in the US. India banned the app last month.

Tensions between London and Beijing now appear poised to descend into a public and painful economic war. This week, Chinese Communist Party officials threatened economic retaliation against major British firms that have operations in China, including Jaguar Land Rover and GlaxoSmithKline.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, will visit the UK next week and pressure Downing Street to take an even tougher line on China. The White House considered Britain’s decision to ban Huawei as a political coup. Britain confirmed to Huawei officials that it had implemented a ban partly for “geopolitical” reasons following intense pressure from the US, according to an Observer report.

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