On Monday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested that Microsoft could divest its holdings in China if it were to buy the Chinese owned short-video app TikTok.
Navarro said in an interview with CNN that “So the question is, is Microsoft going to be compromised?. Maybe Microsoft could divest its Chinese holdings?.”
Three people familiar with the matter said on Sunday that President Donald Trump has agreed to give China’s ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of popular short-video app TikTok to Microsoft.
US officials have said TikTok poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. Trump said on Friday he was planning to ban TikTok in the United States after dismissing the idea of a sale to Microsoft.
Navarro said in an earlier interview with Fox News Channel that any potential buyer of TikTok that has operations in China could be a problem.
Navarro cited Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Skype platform, saying they “effectively are enablers of Chinese censorship, surveillance, and monitoring.”
Microsoft has over 6,000 employees in China and offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou.
While the company has been there for decades, business from China accounts for just over 1 percent of the company’s revenue, Bloomberg reported Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith stating at a conference in January.
Microsoft is now pushing its Azure cloud service to customers in China, via a partnership with local data service provider 21Vianet.
Its crown jewel is arguably a research center in Beijing, which has produced a number of alumni who have gone on to executive positions at Alibaba, ByteDance, Xiaomi, and facial recognition unicorns SenseTime and Megvii.