Trump aims to give China an ed­u­ca­tion in deals

Pres­i­dent’s TikTok plans in­clude a sur­prise fund for US his­tory teach­ing, writes Han­nah Boland

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

Af­ter months of wran­gling over the fu­ture of TikTok, last week­end pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sig­nalled that a deal to al­low the vi­ral video app to keep oper­at­ing in the US was closer than ever. A tie-up to hand Or­a­cle and Wal­mart a stake in a new “TikTok Global” busi­ness was in the process of be­ing fi­nalised. Un­der the pro­posed agree­ment, Trump said, Or­a­cle could re­ceive over­sight of TikTok’s US data, the com­pany could be based in Amer­ica and se­cu­rity would be “100pc”. It was a deal which had re­ceived Trump’s bless­ing.

There was, how­ever, one sur­pris­ing ad­di­tion to the deal. At a rally in North Carolina on Satur­day, Trump said he had asked the com­pa­nies to “do me a favour”. He had asked them if they could “put up $5bn (£3.9bn) into a fund for ed­u­ca­tion, so we can ed­u­cate peo­ple as to the real his­tory of our coun­try – the real his­tory, not the fake his­tory... That’s their con­tri­bu­tion that I’ve been ask­ing for”.

So far, much ap­pears still up in the air. In re­cent days, Or­a­cle and TikTok’s Chi­nese owner ByteDance have is­sued con­flict­ing state­ments over how the deal would be struc­tured, with the lat­ter claim­ing it would re­tain ma­jor­ity own­er­ship of the new TikTok Global busi­ness, while Or­a­cle stated it would be buy­ing into a new mainly US-owned com­pany.

In an ed­i­to­rial on Mon­day, Bei­jing­backed news­pa­per Global Times said China was un­likely to ap­prove the agree­ment that ap­peared to be on the ta­ble, say­ing the terms showed “Wash­ing­ton’s bul­ly­ing style and hooli­gan logic”. What’s more, de­tail on how the new ed­u­ca­tion fund would fit into the deal has been scarce. On the one hand, ByteDance said it had no knowl­edge of the fund prior to Trump’s com­ments over the week­end.

On the other, Or­a­cle sug­gested that the new TikTok Global com­pany would “cre­ate an ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tive to de­velop and de­liver an AI-driven on­line video cur­ricu­lum to teach chil­dren from in­ner cities to the sub­urbs a va­ri­ety of cour­ses, from ba­sic read­ing and math to science, his­tory and com­puter en­gi­neer­ing”.

Right now, it’s a “bit of a head­scratcher”, ad­mits Wed­bush an­a­lyst Dan Ives. “The ink’s still not dry on the deal, so there’ll be a lot of back and forth in this game of high-stakes poker to try to get a tranche cut out for an ed­u­ca­tion fund, but I think it still re­mains to be seen how it plays out.

There’s a lot of noise with this deal, and a lot of par­ties, boards and gov­ern­ments are in­volved, all try­ing to claim vic­tory.”

Trump’s move could be seen in this vein. Ex­perts have said the slated deal with Or­a­cle and Wal­mart marks a sig­nif­i­cant step-down from the ini­tial plans to force a full sale of TikTok by ByteDance. The con­ces­sion to have the firms re­quired to pay into a US gov­ern­ment fund, re­port­edly added in at the last minute, could go some way in as­suag­ing crit­i­cism.

Yet, this may not be the only thing at play here. A “pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion fund” is not an idea that Trump pulled out of thin air at the rally. Last week, he

‘There’s a lot of noise with this, and a lot of par­ties are in­volved, all try­ing to claim vic­tory’

an­nounced a new ini­tia­tive, ti­tled the “1776 Com­mis­sion”, which would in­volve set­ting up a “na­tional com­mis­sion to sup­port pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion”.

The scheme was seen as a counter to The New York Times Mag­a­zine’s “1619 Project” which started as a spe­cial is­sue and has since been de­vel­oped into a cur­ricu­lum to place slav­ery at the cen­tre of US his­tory. Al­though in Amer­ica, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can­not dic­tate the cur­ricu­lum taught in lo­cal schools, Trump’s new com­mis­sion would “en­cour­age our ed­u­ca­tors to teach our chil­dren about the mir­a­cle of Amer­i­can his­tory and make plans to hon­our the 250th an­niver­sary of our found­ing”, he said, and teach the youth to “love Amer­ica”.

He warned that, for too long, “the Left has warped, dis­torted and de­filed the Amer­i­can story”. Schools adopt­ing the 1619 Project cur­ricu­lum would “not be funded”, Trump tweeted.

Among ed­u­ca­tors, these pro­pos­als have prompted some con­cern. Last Thurs­day, the Na­tional Coun­cil for the So­cial Stud­ies is­sued a state­ment in which it said it “re­sound­ingly re­jects any ef­fort by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to si­lence a so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum that ex­plic­itly ad­dresses the cen­tral­ity of slav­ery in the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of the United States”. Mean­while, Grace Leather­man, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of

‘We’re very pro-fund­ing for so­cial stud­ies, but let’s just say this would not be prece­dented’

the Na­tional Coun­cil for His­tory Ed­u­ca­tion, said it was “so im­por­tant not to over­look the parts of our his­tory that are hard”. Trump’s claim that he is now in­tro­duc­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies into the equa­tion, and urg­ing them to bankroll this “pa­tri­otic” cur­ricu­lum scheme, is “sur­pris­ing”, she says.

“We’re very pro-fund­ing for so­cial stud­ies and his­tory ed­u­ca­tion, but let’s just say this would be un­prece­dented.”

Trump may al­ready be al­lo­cat­ing cash from the TikTok deal to his ed­u­ca­tion project but it is not over the line. This week, both sides ap­peared at log­ger­heads. His bless­ing may have moved it a step closer but what is clear is this is not yet a done deal.

Don­ald Trump has given his bless­ing to a TikTok sell-off

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