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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.

16 mins ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 22 mins ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.