China won’t accept the US’s “theft” of TikTok and may retaliate, state media said, raising the threat of Beijing’s opposition to Microsoft Corp.’s envisioned purchase of the social media app’s American operations.

The editorial published late Monday by the China Daily newspaper represented Beijing’s strongest defense yet of ByteDance Ltd. and its viral video phenom. Earlier, President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app from Sept. 15 unless a deal was struck to sell TikTok’s US business to Microsoft or another US entity.

While the China Daily acknowledged that selling the US business “might be preferable” to ByteDance, the newspaper compared the process to officially sanctioned theft, a sentiment echoed in other prominent state media including the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper.

“With competitiveness now dependent on the ability to collect and use data, it offers an either-or choice of submission or mortal combat in the tech realm,” the China Daily said. “China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab.”

Beijing often uses the editorial page of the English-language China Daily to deliver messages to a Western audience.

ByteDance became the world’s largest startup thanks to the success abroad of TikTok, which American lawmakers accuse of posing a threat to national security by vacuuming up data. Trump has the power to potentially cripple ByteDance’s prized asset by adding TikTok to the US entity list, which would compel American companies such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to drop the service from their app stores.

The US crackdown has split many in the industry: Some decry the betrayal of values like free speech and capitalism, while others advocate doing whatever it takes to subdue a geopolitical rival and its pivotal tech industry.

While the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declined to comment on Microsoft’s TikTok talks, spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated criticism Tuesday of what he said were Washington’s double standards and overreach.

“If following the wrong example set by U.S., every country could use national security as an excuse to target American companies,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing. “The US should not [try] to open a Pandora’s box, otherwise it will swallow the bitter fruit itself.”

Trump repeatedly insisted on Monday that any sale of TikTok’s US operations would have to include a substantial payment to the US. That was “open robbery,” tweeted Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid run by the party’s People’s Daily newspaper.

It’s unclear what regulatory measures China could take. The Global Times wrote China has a “limited ability” to protect its companies since the U.S. still enjoys technological superiority.