President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday banning transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay and WeChat Pay, branding them as a threat to national security as they could route vital information to Beijing. The move comes less than two weeks before he leaves office as the President of the United States.
The executive order is to take effect in 45 days but by that time Trump will have been replaced in the White House by President-elect Joe Biden. The applications banned with this executive order include apps from some of the biggest companies like Ant Group and Tencent.
Launching a Crusade
The ban is Trump's latest move to increase scrutiny on Chinese companies operating in the United States. In order to justify the ban, Trump said that the apps have the potential to access private information of users and could be passed on to the Chinese government to "track locations of Federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information."
Alipay definitely is the biggest among the eight apps to draw Trump's ire. Alipay boasts more than a billion users and is one of the most popular payment applications. Besides Alipay, three applications from Tencent, which includes WeChat Pay, QQWallet, Tencent QQ, along with CamScanner, SHAREit, Vmate, and WPS Office, have also been banned.
The apps targeted by the new ban were reportedly chosen because of the extremely high number of downloads, which meant tens of millions of users could be at risk of having their data harvested. According to a senior administration official, the order and its implementation have not been discussed with the 'incoming Biden administration'.
The move to ban these eight apps come months after Trump signed executive orders to ban TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, were derailed by court rulings indicating Trump overstepped his legal authority. Moreover, the move might further escalate tensions between the United States and China days ahead of the inauguration of Biden who has said little about how he plans to address specific tech threats from China.
That said, Biden will have the power to revoke the order on the very first day in office as the President. But as of now the ban in likely to further add to the tensions between the United States and China which has already peaked following the coronavirus outbreak, for which Washington has been blaming Beijing.
Following the ban, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he supports Trump's 'commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party'.