WASHINGTON – President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order banning trading with eight Chinese software apps, including Alipay, the payment platform owned by Ant Group and WeChat Pay, owned by Tencent .
The move, two weeks before the end of Mr. Trump’s term, could help lock down his administration’s tougher stance on China and potentially make Beijing drop even further. But defining the scope of the order and its execution will probably belong to the forthcoming Biden administration, which is not yet clear whether they will attempt to enact Mr. Trump’s ban, creating uncertainty over the effect of the move.
The executive order, issued late on Tuesday, will prohibit all transactions with the “developers or controllers” of Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, WPS applications. Office and their subsidiaries after the 45-day period.
In this order, the president said that China used “mass data collection” to advance its national security and economic agenda and targeted applications that caused Americans to encounter risk.
“The United States has assessed that certain Chinese connected software applications automatically capture a large amount of information from millions of US users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and information. private information, ”the command said. “At this point, action is needed to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications,” he wrote.
At a daily news conference Wednesday, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the order “another example of American bullying and hegemony, upholding the concept of national security, abuse of national power and unreasonable repression of foreign companies. It harms others without bringing benefits to themselves ”.
She added that Beijing “will of course take the necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The executive order is the latest escalation by the Trump administration against China. Under Mr. Trump, the White House raised taxes and waged a trade war. It also targets Chinese-owned social media services, saying they provide a conduit for Chinese espionage and pose a national security risk to the American public. Last fall, the Trump administration issued a ban on two other popular Chinese-owned social media services, TikTok and WeChat.
But both of those bans got caught up in litigation, and services continued to operate in the United States. That raises the question of whether American courts will order to block Mr. Trump’s latest bans on Chinese services.
During a brief meeting on Tuesday night, a senior Trump administration official said they were still expected to win those trials and that the legal challenges to the TikTok and WeChat orders focus on rights. of the First Amendment, this will most likely not be a concern with payment platforms and other applications affected by the latest orders.
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The senior official also said the Trump administration has not contacted the Biden administration about the order. The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tencent declined to comment. Other Chinese tech companies affected by the order were not immediately available to comment.
The reach of orders may be limited, as the majority of the users of the affected applications live in China. For example, Alipay users are often required to have a bank account in China and a Chinese mobile phone number. Samm Sacks, China cybersecurity policy expert and fellow Chinese digital economy in New America, says it’s less likely that many of the applications included in the executive order process a lot of data belonging to citizens. America.
However, the restrictions can drastically drop for Chinese Americans traveling between countries or using services to stay in touch or conduct business with Chinese contacts.
The measure could also affect President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has pointed out that he wants to readjust US policies toward China while continuing to put pressure on the country in some issues.
“The executive order will go into effect on Biden’s watch,” said Ms. Sacks. “Even if his team doesn’t buy the risk of national security, politically the order will be hard to change without sounding like a concession to Beijing. I see this order as a last-minute plea to try to bind Biden’s hand.
The new order assigns the duties to the commerce minister to determine the type of transaction that will be affected for 45 days. It also directs the secretary to identify and take appropriate action against other applications, while making broader recommendations on how the United States should develop a program to control the flow of its personal data. The United States to foreign opponents, the Trump administration’s senior official said. The order is not intended to prevent Chinese companies from paying their employees in the United States, the official said.
In a statement, Wilbur Ross, trade secretary, said he had directed his department to start issuing orders, “including identifying prohibited transactions related to some application section. Chinese connected soft. “
“I support President Trump’s commitment to protecting American privacy and security from Chinese Communist Party threats,” he added.
The executive order came as the Trump administration and members of Congress also pressured the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday to remove three major Chinese state-owned telecommunications companies from the exchange. deal.
The stock exchange late on Monday reversed its original plan, announced last week, to delist companies that obey the government’s executive order to prevent American investment in public companies. company related to the Chinese military.
Alan Rappeport and David McCabe Contribution reports. Claire Fu Contribution research.