U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order on Tuesday banning transactions with the companies behind eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ and WeChat Pay, escalating tensions with Asia’s biggest economy two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Reuters, who was the first to report the news, said that the ban is aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese apps, which have large user bases and access to sensitive data. The order argues that the U.S. must take “aggressive action” against developers of Chinese apps to protect national security. It was reported that the transactions will be prohibited in 45 days.
The full list of apps included in the order are: Alipay, QQ Wallet, CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, WeChat Pay, VMate, and WPS Office.
“By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information,” the executive order states.
Such data collection “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information,” the document adds.
Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Secretary, confirmed that the Commerce Department will “begin implementing the E.O.’s directives, including identifying prohibited transactions.” Reuters reports that the Commerce Department will make these arrangements before Trump leaves office on January 20th, inauguration of Joe Biden, a Democrat, as President, citing an unnamed official.
Though Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter, he could, however, revoke the order on the first day of his presidency.
Two earlier orders precede this new order. One from August, that tried to ban transactions with ByteDance and WeChat. However, a judge blocked the WeChat ban twice in September and in October, while a judge pronounced an interim order stopping the TikTok ban in December.