09:06 GMT18 September 2020
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    The new hire comes amid a spike in tensions between Washington and Beijing after the former added the latter to a list of Chinese unicorns targeted ahead of trade negotiations set to take place in August.

    Tencent, a Chinese tech company that owns WeChat, has hired an ex-US official to help navigate the ongoing US-China trade war, Politico has reported.

    Former US Treasury Department Deputy General Counsel Roberto Gonzalez served in the Obama administration and is now partnered with the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

    The move is a first for the Chinese tech giant and is the first time Mr Gonzalez will register for public lobbying, according to the report.

    The news comes after another Chinese firm, TikTok owner ByteDance, boosted spending on lobbying efforts to $500,000 to counter allegations from US officials that the popular video-sharing platform could be used to harvest data for Beijing, which the company denies.

    US President Donald Trump has threatened to block the transactions of companies and individuals if the Chinese unicorn fails to sell its American operations to a US tech firm by 15 September and cut a portion of the proceeds to the US Treasury.

    Former Internet Association staffer Michael Beckerman was hired by TikTok, the world's largest startup, in February for its US operations along with a further four lobbying firms, Bloomberg reported.

    The developments come after Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek Inc hired the former director of the Office of Business Liason, Patrick Wilson, to steer the company as its vice-president of government affairs amid the trade tensions.

    Numerous Chinese companies, including telecoms giant Huawei, Tencent's WeChat, Alibaba, and TikTok, have been targeted by US officials, who have cited national security concerns.

    TikTok will be discussed along with agricultural exports and dollar-yuan exchange rates in upcoming "phase one" trade talks with Washington, but no date has been set due to disagreements on purchasing quotes, among others, reports revealed.

    Tencent and the streaming service iQIYI also face a potential ban in Taiwan in September amid accusations of illegal dealings with local service providers, with a revised executive order set to enter force on 3 September.

    CORRECTION: The headline of the article has been changed to reflect the appointment of Robert Gonzalez to Tencent and not Michael Beckerman, who was appointed by TikTok in February. We apologise for the error.

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    social media, US-China trade war, wechat, Tencent
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