US President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked former President Trump’s executive orders trying to ban Chinese short video app TikTok and instant communication app WeChat over national security concerns and issued a new order to review security concerns posed by these apps, the White House said.
A statement said that instead of banning the popular apps, the Biden administration would carry out a “criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to address the risks” from apps associated with foreign adversaries.
The order directs the Commerce Department to “evaluate on a continuing basis” any transactions that “pose an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of the critical infrastructure or digital economy of the United States”, Reuters reported.
Biden’s new directives revoke an order Trump issued in August last year that targeted eight communications and financial applications including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ Wallet and WeChat pay.
TikTok, the viral short video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, boasts more than 100 million users in the US. Tencent-backed WeChat is also a massively popular app with multi-functions of social networking, messaging, payments, and gaming.
Under Donald Trump’s direction, the U.S. Commerce Department banned TikTok and WeChat from U.S. app stores starting September last year, in line with two executive orders signed in August, aiming to protect Americans’ personal data. He further sought to force Bytedance to spin-off TikTok into a new company owned primarily by US investors.
TikTok has denied Trump’s claims that U.S. national security and data privacy are at risk. The short video company promised to neither store data from U.S.-based users in China, nor give the data to the Chinese government.
The ban forced WeChat to end its payment function and put restrictions on other technical transactions on the app, which would severely influence users’ experience. The company expressed its dissatisfaction with what it deemed an unjust decision.
In response to the US government’s crackdown on Chinese tech companies, Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in September last year, “The policies the U.S. was taking have nothing to do with national security. In reality, this ban violates the principles of fair competition.”
In response to the lawsuits filed by WeChat users in the US and TikTok, Federal courts in San Francisco and Washington blocked the bans, saying the previous administration overstepped its authority.
Although Wednesday’s order reflects the new administration’s different approach towards Chinese software products, concerns about personal data collection and privacy remain.
Other countries expressed similar worries about foreign apps. Earlier this year, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology raised a permanent ban on 59 Chinese applications, including Tik Tok, WeChat, Alibaba’s UC Browser and others.