Departing US President Trump is maintaining his campaign against Chinese commercial interest for as long as he can.
Yet another executive order has been issued by the Donald ‘Addressing the Threat Posed By Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled By Chinese Companies’. There’s the now-standard preamble about how anything Chinese is intrinsically dodgy and thus a threat to US national security, calling on the first anti-Chinese company executive order as circular justification for this one.
Just as Huawei is presumed to be in the pocket of the Chinese Communist Party, so are the likes of Alibaba and Tencent. It follows, therefore, that Alipay, WeChat Pay and a bunch of other Chinese financial service apps won’t hesitate to harvest the sensitive personal data of unsuspecting yanks and deliver it to moustache-twirling Chinese politicians when ordered to do so. Or something like that.
As if the usual assertions and innuendos aren’t sufficient justification by themselves, the executive order leans heavily on the precedent set by India, which never tires of banning Chinese apps. ‘In fact, the Government of India has banned the use of more than 200 Chinese connected software applications throughout the country; in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that the applications were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” says the announcement.
So, in 45-days time, no transactions that take place under the jurisdiction of the US will be allowed to take place using the following apps: Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. Of course, as with any last-minute executive orders, this could be overruled by Joe Biden once he takes over, but he may consider it politically expedient not to.
In response China will presumably issue a statement along the lines of “Ooh, now you’re really for it,” and maybe even ban some minor US operation in China just to show what happens to anyone who messes with it.
These executive orders and the whole campaign against Huawei have always felt very piecemeal. If every technology originating from China is a potential threat to US national security, why not just ban the lot? Why, for example, has Trump not acted against Lenovo, which remains a strong player in the international PC and server markets? There will presumably be less of these under Biden, but he’s likely to face considerable pressure to retain a strong stance against China.