US President Donald Trump punishes China again, takes this step against WeChat, other Chinese apps

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning transactions with as many as eight Chinese applications, the White House said on Tuesday. 

The move could escalate tensions with Beijing just before President Trump vacates office.

A senior official told Reuters that the move will likely curb the threat posed to Americans by Chinese software applications, which have a large user base and also have access to sensitive data.

The order tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive and targets Tencent Holdings Ltd`s QQ Wallet, including Ant Group`s Alipay and WeChat Pay as well.

The order reads: “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.”

It further read, “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information.”

The order says: “… The United States must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security.”

The order gives Commerce Department 45 days to identify prohibited transactions and take suitable action but the department plans to act before January 20 which is when Trump leaves office.

The order signed by Trump also names CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office. 

Last month, the Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese companies, including the country’s top chipmaker SMIC and Chinese drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, to a trade blacklist.

Also last month the administration published a list of Chinese and Russian companies with alleged military ties that restrict them from buying a range of US goods and technology. In November, the administration put on hold an effort to blacklist Ant Group, the Chinese financial technology company affiliated with e-commerce giant Alibaba.

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