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Facing Trump Ban, China’s TikTok Embeds Itself Into U.S. Culture

Social video app spends heavily to build careers of U.S. creators, growing loyal base of supporters in bid for survival.

The TikTok app.

The TikTok app.

Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg

James Henry, known for slapstick comedy and dance videos on TikTok, got an email last fall from the app’s creator relationships team. Would he be interested in joining Mariah Carey to film something for TikTok to promote her holiday song, “All I Want For Christmas is You”?

Henry jumped at the chance. Soon he was filming from a mansion in West Hollywood, starstruck. Sony Music Entertainment, Carey’s record label, compensated him for his time. But there was something valuable for TikTok in the deal, too: loyalty. “It really makes me grateful,” Henry said. “It gives me the feeling that I would want to stick with this app.”