Chinese firms ByteDance and Shein are ramping up their spending on lobbying efforts in the United States, aiming to mitigate potential challenges from American lawmakers amidst escalating tensions between the U.S. and China.
ByteDance, the operator of the popular short-form video platform TikTok, and Shein, an online fashion retailer, are seeking to expand their presence in the U.S., the world’s largest consumer market, as the economic slowdown in China hinders further growth opportunities domestically.
According to reports submitted to Congress by January 31 and data from OpenSecrets, a Washington-based nonprofit organization tracking corporate finance and lobbying, ByteDance’s affiliate responsible for TikTok’s operations in the U.S. and Shein’s management company have significantly increased their lobbying expenditures. In 2023, ByteDance spent $8.74 million on lobbying activities, marking a 77% increase from the previous year, while Shein’s lobbying expenses surged to $2.12 million, a sharp 7.6-fold increase compared to the previous year.
ByteDance’s TikTok, with over 170 million users in the U.S., has faced scrutiny from American lawmakers, leading to legislative proposals targeting the platform’s operations, such as the RESTRICT Act and the No TikTok on United States Devices Act. Despite these challenges, TikTok remains popular among American youth, and ByteDance has expanded its lobbying efforts to address regulatory concerns and safeguard its operations in the U.S.
On the other hand, Shein has been proactive in lobbying efforts, particularly concerning legislative issues affecting the apparel and e-retailer industry. The company has hired individuals with experience in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to advocate for its interests and emphasize its contributions to the U.S. economy.
Both ByteDance and Shein are navigating regulatory hurdles and potential bans on their platforms, with ByteDance previously facing calls for a ban from former President Donald Trump and later a suggestion from President Joe Biden to sell TikTok. Despite shifting stances from policymakers, both companies are strategically engaging in lobbying activities to safeguard their interests and ensure favorable regulatory outcomes.
In response to inquiries, Shein emphasized its commitment to actively participating in the political process to protect the interests of its customers and employees. However, ByteDance has yet to provide a comment on the matter.