Outgoing US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to ban transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay online payments platform, owned by Jack Ma, the White House said. This order heightens tensions with Beijing two weeks before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.
The measure, according to the agency Reuters, aims to halt the threat that Chinese software applications pose to Americans, who have large user bases and access to sensitive data.
In this regard, the order argues that the United States should take “aggressive measures” against the creators of Chinese software applications to protect national security.
It is the Department of Commerce that will define which transactions will be prohibited under the directive, within 45 days. The ban order targets QQ Wallet and WeChat (both owned by Tencent Holdings), CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate (a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group) and also the WPS Office.
“By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers, Chinese software applications can access and capture vast information from users, including personally identifiable sensitive information and private information,” says the executive order, cited by Reuters.
Such data collection “would allow China to track the location of federal officials and build files of personal information,” the document adds.
China will take the necessary steps to safeguard the legitimate rights of companies in light of the Trump order, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference on Wednesday. The official added that the United States was abusing its national power and repressing foreign companies.
The order aims to cement Trump’s harsh legacy in China ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration day on January 20, who said little about how he plans to address China’s technological threats.