Trump Hits China Hard

Donald Trump’s war on Chinese companies continues. Earlier this morning, the President signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese apps. 

The apps include payment platforms such as Alipay, as well as QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay. 

The order will take effect in 45 days and says that the apps are being banned as they are a threat to US national security. It raises the possibility that the apps could be used to track and build dossiers on US federal employees.

Other apps such as Tencent QQ, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office have also been included in the order. 

The order says that “The United States must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security. By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones or tablets, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information.”

The order follows a crackdown by the Commerce Department, which late last year added dozens of Chinese companies including the country’s top chipmaker SMIC to a trade blacklist. The administration has also restricted a number of Chinese and Russian companies with alleged military ties from buying sensitive US goods.

China has continually denied that these firms share their data with the Chinese government though they have responded to the orders by imposing their own export laws restricting the export of military technology. 

That the US itself has not always stuck with its threats suggests that there are a few loopholes in their arguments though. After all, ByteDance, the owner of TikTok was ordered to shut down or sell off its US assets, this has not yet happened, and negotiations continue over the company’s future.

The latest ban has come as the White House pushed the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to consider another U-turn on its decision to delist three Chinese telecom giants, suggesting further inconsistency.

Last week the NYSE announced it would delist China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom in line with another executive order. However, the NYSE reversed that decision announcing it had decided not to delist the three companies after further consultation with US regulators. The decision was made based on ambiguity about whether the securities were actually covered by the order.

The exchange has come under pressure because of its decision with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin calling the NYSE President to inform her of his disagreement with the decision. Whilst other Republicans have also voiced strong disagreement.

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