US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning transactions with companies behind (or subsidiaries/people associated with) eight popular Chinese apps that include Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. Alipay, which is China’s largest payment platform and is owned by Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay are among the two most well-known names that will be hurt by the US government’s latest move. The order will go into effect 45 days from now. However, necessary action will reportedly be taken by the US Commerce Department before Trump’s formal exit from the White House as president-elect Joe Biden takes over.
However, Ant Group is not the only Chinese behemoth that will feel the heat. Internet and entertainment services behemoth Tencent is also at target here, as two of the apps mentioned above – Tencent QQ and WeChat Pay – are owned by Tencent Holdings. To recall, the US government also sought to ban TikTok and WeChat last year, but the social media giant managed to avoid it by inking a deal with Oracle, while the WeChat ban was blocked by a US court.
Today, President @realDonaldTrump signed an Executive Order (E.O.) titled, “Addressing the Threat Posed by Applications and other Software Developed or Controlled by Chinese Companies”: https://t.co/eT7iwK8m3U pic.twitter.com/0iN63XklV5— Sec. Wilbur Ross (@SecretaryRoss) January 5, 2021
“The United States has assessed that a number of Chinese connected software applications automatically capture vast swaths of information from millions of users in the United States, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information, which would allow the PRC and CCP access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” says the executive order. It adds that the data collected by these apps might allow the Chinese government to track federal employees as well as contracts to build a personal information database.
The latest move by the US government highlights concerns similar to those raised by the Indian government when it banned 118 Chinese apps back in September, with the biggest name on the list being mobile gaming phenomenon PUBG Mobile and its Lite version. In fact, the Indian government’s ban also finds a mention in the executive order signed by President Trump. As for the eight Chinese apps mentioned above, they were identified by the Secretary of Commerce, who has also been ordered to identify more such apps that pose a threat to national security.
“I stand with President Trump’s commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party, and the Department of Commerce will leverage the authorities of the E.O. to continue our mission to secure the nation, the economy, and the people of the United States,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in an official statement.