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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump has one day left in the White House. TikTok has a lot longer left in the app stores, despite still being owned by China's ByteDance.

Why it matters: Trump's failure to force divestiture or eviction was more than just a blunder, or source of schadenfreude for the TikTok users who bedeviled his reelection campaign's event planners. It was part of a "talk loudly and carry a small stick" economic policy toward China that Joe Biden will inherit.

State of play: ByteDance is still engaged with CFIUS, but negotiations have been pushed to the back burner by political considerations in both the U.S. (election aftermath) and China (Jack Ma and all his situation represents).

  • Oracle and Walmart remain committed to their September 2020 deal, which was briefly lauded by Trump, but don't really have a role in the CFIUS discussions.
  • TikTok continues to be atop or nearly atop the app stores, and has not yet removed the "interim" title from CEO Vanessa Pappas.

What now: Biden has occasionally talked tough on China, including when it comes to data security, but his specific policy prescriptions are so few as to fit into a TikTok video.

  • Will he maintain or cancel Trump’s executive orders related to ByteDance, not to mention EO’s that cover other Chinese tech companies like Alipay and WeChat? Or the blacklisting of Xiaomi. Dunno.
  • What about the corresponding Commerce Department prohibitions? Dunno.
  • Will new tariffs be proposed? Or will Biden just try to get concessions from China — including on tech issues — by offering to remove tariffs introduced in Trump’s “Phase 1” deal that never got to a second phase? Dunno.
  • Meanwhile, there is bipartisan D.C. consensus on the threats posted by Chinese companies like ByteDance (whether justified or not).

The bottom line: Biden's decisions related to TikTok could give us the earliest window into his China strategy, including what he does about a looming Feb. 18 court deadline over Trump's executive order. But there isn't any trail of breadcrumbs to follow, which means things will be as unsettled tomorrow night as they are tomorrow morning.

Go deeper

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

5 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.