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Chinese Tech Giants Ramp Up Lobbying in Face of US Government Scrutiny

Chinese tech companies like TikTok and SHEIN have rapidly increased their spending on lobbying efforts within the United States. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance spent $8.74 million on lobbying in 2023, a 77% increase over the previous year. SHEIN spent $2.12 million in 2023 on lobbying, a 760% increase. The moves come as the U.S. government ramps up scrutiny and rhetoric targeting the companies amid broader U.S.-China tensions. The statistics on lobbying expense come from mandatory disclosure reports that the companies filed with Congress. TikTok and SHEIN aim to expand in the massive U.S. consumer market as growth slows at home in China.

TikTok now has 170 million U.S. users, gaining popularity despite previous bans. An e-commerce feature was added to the platform in 2023. TikTok’s lobbying focuses on pushing back against bills in Congress that would restrict the company’s U.S. business or ban use on government devices. Starting after U.S. regulator discussion of a possible ban in 2020, TikTok has grown its lobbying staff to about 14 people. TikTok lobbying was likely successful in slowing momentum for a ban as public opposition fell.

SHEIN lobbies on apparel, e-commerce, and trade controls. The company reportedly hired a former U.S. Trade Representative employee to argue SHEIN’s economic benefits to Congress as the company plans a U.S. IPO. Some in Congress claim that SHEIN uses a customs loophole to sell goods that have been produced with forced labor.

Both companies aim to expand within the U.S. while facing more scrutiny over data and economic security.

Source: Nikkei, February 2, 2024