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A TikTok ban could be terrible news for Apple and Tesla

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks to an employee at a solar park in Hanstholm, Denmark.
TikTok drama in the US could end up hurting Apple.Christoph Dernbach/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • China's foreign ministry said banning TikTok would "eventually backfire on the US."

  • US tech firms operating in China are already facing a squeeze.

  • Analysts say China could retaliate by launching brand-damage campaigns or stifling local operations.

A TikTok ban in the US could spell trouble for Apple, Tesla, and other American companies operating in China.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would require ByteDance to sell TikTok to a non-Chinese entity within 180 days or face a ban from US app stores.

It's unclear whether the Senate will pass the bill or whether the legislation could withstand possible legal challenges. Though several companies have expressed interest in buying TikTok, a spokesperson for the company suggested a sale wasn't likely, saying the bill had a "predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States."

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Two analysts told Business Insider that if the US enacted a ban, China could retaliate.

US tech firms are already facing challenges in China amid strong local competition and an unfriendly political climate. On Wednesday, China's foreign ministry said attempts to ban TikTok would "eventually backfire on the US."

Gene Munster, a managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management, told Business Insider he believed a TikTok ban had a 25% chance of materializing. If it does, he said, "it would be bad for the China portion of US business revenue" for several companies, with Apple and Tesla "near the top of the list."

Munster said the Chinese government could retaliate by launching "propaganda brand-damage campaigns" — which is precisely what China thinks the US is doing with TikTok. He said it could also stifle operations by capping work hours, creating shipping strikes, or impeding permits for new projects.