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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok is less than two weeks away from President Trump's deal-or-death deadline, but a transaction is feeling even further away than when he first made his threat.

Driving the news: China's new tech export rules could prevent ByteDance from including TikTok's algorithm in its sale of TikTok, which is akin to McDonald's selling a Big Mac without the meat.

Between the lines: This deal was already difficult before Beijing intervened, but at least companies like Microsoft and Oracle knew what they were bidding on. Now it's less clear, even to ByteDance, thus creating trickle-down troubles for everything from pricing to deal structure.

  • A Chinese government official on Monday accused the U.S. of "outright bullying.”
  • Adding yet another layer of complexity, Trump yesterday reiterated his extortionary insistence that the U.S. "has to be compensated, well compensated" for approving a sale.
  • There still doesn't appear to be any buyside appetite for such a payment, with sources hoping Trump will rhetorically save face by pointing to deal-related tax payments.

Of note: That doesn't mean there won't be a deal, because saying anything with certainty about this situation would be folly.

The bottom line: TikTok has become a lot like a Rubik's Cube, a multi-sided puzzle that often involves a long series of counterproductive twists. Most players eventually give up, angry at themselves for even taking the time. But, every once in a while, all of that frustration gives way to an epiphany.

Go deeper

TikTok mega-star Josh Richards pivots to VC investing

Photo: RNewsfoto/Triller

Josh Richards is joining Remus Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, as a Venture Partner, Axios has learned.

The backdrop: Richards, 18, has more than 22 million followers on TikTok and is an angel investor and chief strategy officer at Triller. Remus invests in startups that cater to Gen-Z, like boutique fitness app ClassPass.

US cites Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoyskyy for involvement "in significant corruption"

State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday designated former Ukrainian public official Ihor Kolomoyskyy as an individual involved "in significant corruption."

Why it matters: The designation prohibits Kolomoysky and his immediate family from traveling to the U.S. and signals that the Biden administration will help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his fight against oligarchs and entrenched corruption. U.S. authorities view Kolomoyskyy as among the most powerful of the oligarchs.

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.