The bill, which echoes action taken against TikTok last August, purportedly tackles data collection by Chinese software applications.
With less than two weeks remaining in the White House, President Trump has issued a ban on eight Chinese software apps, including Alipay and the Tencent-owned WeChat Pay.
In the order, Mr Trump claims that the United States "must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security". As such, the eight affected apps have been banned in order to combat the alleged collection of US citizens' personal information, on behalf of Chinese interests.
The named apps cultivated large American userbases, and Trump expressed concerns for these individuals, claiming that the Chinese government supposedly gathers personal information to further its own economic and security goals.
Specifically, the pace and pervasiveness of the spread in the United States of certain connected mobile and desktop applications and other software developed or controlled by persons in the People's Republic of China, to include Hong Kong and Macau (China), continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications.
However, the bill – and the decision whether to enforce it, and its potential scope – will ultimately fall into Joe Biden's hands. Trump's order will come into effect in 45 days, at which point Biden will be over a month into his presidency. It's currently unclear whether Biden will enforce the ban, and speculation has already begun – will the US's antagonistic stance towards China continue into a new presidential term?
In addition to WeChat Pay and Alipay – rival digital wallet services – the Trump ban has also targeted:
- QQ Wallet
- Tencent QQ
- WPS Office
As outlined in the order, transactions with "persons that develop or control" the above apps, or their subsidiaries, will be banned once the 45-day period has ended.
Trump is no stranger to banning apps, however, and previously acted to ban TikTok and WeChat in August 2020.
The order to ban Alipay and WeChat, amongst others, is sure to further exacerbate relations between the US and China – relations that have grown more and more fraught over a short span of years. The US stock market has frequently been shaken by tariffs imposed on China, a rising star in the economic world, and Chinese businesses have seen major roadblocks and obstacles, having been specifically targeted by the White House. Similarly, Trump's administration has taken particular aim at social media services owned by Chinese firms, claiming that they pose security risks and facilitate espionage.