US President Donald Trump has signed executive orders banning popular Chinese apps like TikTok and WeChat, terming them a threat to the national security and to the country’s economy.
The ban comes into effect in 45 days, Trump said in his two separate executive orders signed on Thursday.
Donald Trump cites India to ban ‘national security risk’ Chinese TikTok
US President Donald Trump’s order to ban US transactions with Chinese owners of short video-sharing app TikTok and messenger app WeChat cited India’s decision to purge the two applications earlier in June. The US restriction on the transactions will kick in after 45 days, mid-September.
“The risks are real,” the presidential directive said, accusing the mobile applications of capturing vast swaths of information from its users that may potentially be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.
The data captured by TikTok could potentially allow China to track locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.
The US President went on to cite restrictions on use of TikTok on federal government phones by the US armed forces, homeland security and the transportation security administration.
Then he turned to India’s ban on Chinese mobile applications to build the case for his own set of restrictions.
“The Government of India recently banned the use of TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications throughout the country; in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” President Trump said.
For its ban on WeChat, a mobile app largely used by the Chinese community in the United States, Trump referenced restrictions placed by India and Australia.
“These risks have led other countries, including Australia and India, to begin restricting or banning the use of WeChat. The United States must take aggressive action against the owner of WeChat to protect our national security,” he said.
India, which has been locked in a standoff with China at its border in East Ladakh, was the first country to axe 59 mobile applications with close links to China. India said these apps threatened the country’s “sovereignty and integrity”
India’s 29 June order did not explicitly ban people from using mobile apps. But it forced app stores to boot out the 59 applications, and later their proxies, presenting the world with a model to strangle the ability of Chinese mobile apps to operate.
Trump’s ban uses the same template, his payback to China that has right from the beginning shut out US apps and websites such as Facebook and Google from operating in China and instead, helped build its brand of technology firms such as Alibaba Group holding to Tencent Holding.
The first impact of the US directive was visible in the share market, erasing $ 30 million from the Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd ’s market value and sending the yuan to its biggest slump in two weeks, according to news agency Bloomberg. Before Friday’s drop, Tencent was worth $686 billion, making it the world’s eighth-largest company by market capitalization and bigger than Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
China Accuses US After Trump’s TikTok, WeChat Ban Order
Beijing on Friday accused the United States of “suppression” after President Donald Trump ordered sweeping restrictions against Chinese social media giants TikTok and WeChat.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing that the US move came at the expense of American users and companies.
Trump’s executive orders, which take effect in 45 days, bar anyone under US jurisdiction from doing business with the owners of TikTok or WeChat.
They come as the world’s two biggest economies clash over a host of issues from the coronavirus to Hong Kong and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.
Trump’s orders say the social media giants are a threat to US “national security, foreign policy, and economy”, as the president seeks to curb China’s power in global technology.
Wang said, “the US frequently abuses its national power and unjustifiably suppresses non-US companies”.
TikTok threatens legal action against Trump US ban
TikTok is threatening legal action against the US after Donald Trump ordered firms to stop doing business with the Chinese app within 45 days.
The company said it was “shocked” by an executive order from the US President outlining the ban.
TikTok said it would “pursue all remedies available” to “ensure the rule of law is not discarded”.
Mr Trump issued a similar order against China’s WeChat in a major escalation in Washington’s stand-off with Beijing.
WeChat’s owner, Tencent, said: “We are reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding.”
As well as WeChat, Tencent is also a leading gaming company, and its investments include a 40% stake in Epic Games – the company behind the hugely popular Fortnite video game.
The president has already threatened to ban TikTok in the US, citing national security concerns, and the company is now in talks to sell its American business to Microsoft. They have until 15 September to reach a deal – a deadline set by Mr Trump.
The Trump administration claims that the Chinese government has access to user information gathered by TikTok, which the company has denied.
TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, said it had attempted to engage with the US government for nearly a year “in good faith”.
However, it said: “What we encountered instead was that the administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”
The executive orders against the short-video sharing platform and the messaging service WeChat are the latest measures in an increasingly broad Trump administration campaign against China.
On Thursday, Washington announced recommendations that Chinese firms listed on US stock markets should be delisted unless they provided regulators with access to their audited accounts.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday accused the US of using national security as a cover to exert hegemony.
What does TikTok say?
In its most robust response so far to the US government, TikTok says the executive order that has been issued is based on “unnamed reports with no citations”.
“We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request,” it said.
“We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company.”
Mr Trump said this week he would support the sale to Microsoft as long as the US government received a “substantial portion” of the sale price.
TikTok said the new executive order “risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law”, adding it sets “a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets”.
“We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the administration, then by the US courts,” it said.