The TikTok law kicks off a new showdown between Beijing and Washington. What’s coming next?

FILE - The TikTok logo is displayed on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. TikTok is gearing up for a legal fight against a U.S. law that would force the social media platform to break ties with its China-based parent company or face a ban. A battle in the courts will almost certainly be backed by Chinese authorities as the bitter U.S.-China rivalry threatens the future of a wildly popular way for young Americans to connect online. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — TikTok is gearing up for a legal fight against a U.S. law that would force the social media platform to break ties with its China-based parent company, a move almost certainly backed by Chinese authorities as the bitter U.S.-China rivalry threatens the future of a wildly popular way for young people in America to connect online.

Beijing has signaled TikTok should fight what it has called a “robbers” act by U.S. lawmakers “to snatch from others all the good things that they have.” Should a legal challenge fail, observers say Chinese authorities are unlikely to allow a sale, a move that could be seen as surrendering to Washington.

Beijing may not want the U.S. action against the popular short-form video platform to set a “bad precedent,” said Alex Capri, senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore and research fellow at Hinrich Foundation. “If Beijing capitulates to the U.S., where does it end?”

The legislation that U.S. President Joe Biden signed this week could allow Washington to widen its scope to target other China-related apps, such as the popular e-commerce platform Temu, and embolden U.S. allies to follow suit, said Hu Xijin, a former editor-in-chief for the party-run newspaper Global Times.

With 170 million American users, TikTok should “have more guts to fight to the very end and refuse to surrender,” Hu, now a political commentator, said Wednesday on Chinese social media.

TikTok vowed to challenge the new U.S. law, which requires its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, to divest its stakes within a year to avoid a ban. The company has characterized the law as an infringement on the free speech rights of its users, most of whom use the app for entertainment.

“We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail,” the company wrote on the social platform X.

The fight over TikTok has increased tensions between the U.S. and China, with both vowing to protect their economic and national security interests. U.S. lawmakers are concerned the Chinese ownership of the app could allow Beijing to exert unwanted influence in the U.S., especially on young minds. The law has followed a string of successes by Washington in curbing the influence of Chinese companies through bans, export controls and forced divestitures, drawing protests from Beijing that the U.S. is bent on suppressing China’s rise through economic coercion.

The U.S. has forced other Chinese companies to divest before, including in 2020, when Beijing Kunlun, a Chinese mobile video game company, agreed to sell the gay dating app Grindr after receiving a federal order. But TikTok, created by a Chinese company only for the overseas market and evidence of the nation’s tech powers on the global stage, is a high-profile case that Beijing does not want to lose.

National dignity is at stake and could “take precedence over the financial interests of ByteDance investors,” including global investors who own 60% of the company, said Gabriel Wildau, managing director of the New York-headquartered consulting and advisory firm Teneo.

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