Biden, Xi Discussed TikTok Divestment Push, White House Says

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday discussed efforts to force the sale in the US of TikTok Inc. during a wide-ranging discussion.

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“TikTok came up today, yes,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters following the call, the first one-on-one conversation between the leaders since November.

Biden reiterated to Xi his concerns about Chinese ownership of the popular video-sharing app.

“This was not about a ban of the application, but rather our interest in divestiture, so that the national security interests and the data security of the American people can be protected,” Kirby said.

Earlier: Biden, Xi Spoke by Phone About AI Risks, Russia and Fentanyl

China’s statement describing the call made no mention of TikTok.

The US House passed a bill last month to ban the video-sharing app if its Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd, does not divest its stake. Biden has said he would sign the bill. Its fate in the US Senate is unclear.

Representatives for TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden’s reelection team has used the application, even as his concerns about the app’s ownership and data-sharing practices remain unresolved. The campaign debuted its account in February with a Super Bowl-themed video.

Campaign officials have said the fragmented US media ecosystem makes it even more important to reach voters, especially young people, on a variety of platforms. They are taking extra caution to ensure security of their devices and data while they use the service, officials have said.

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, Alex Barinka, Michelle Jamrisko and Jacob Gu.

(Adds campaign’s use of TikTok starting in eighth paragraph)

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