On Jan. 5, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban U.S. transactions with eight widely-used Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ and WeChat Pay. This ban will take effect 45 days after the date of this order.
“The pace and pervasiveness of the spread in the United States of certain connected mobile and desktop applications and other software developed or controlled by persons in the People’s Republic of China [including Hong Kong and Macau] continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the order stated.
The full list of banned apps includes many popular apps in China: Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stated he strongly supports Trump’s “commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The U.S. has been trying to block Alipay’s presence in the U.S. for months. As China’s leading mobile payment firm, Alibaba’s Ant Group offers a ubiquitous digital wallet, loans, insurance, and asset management services on its platforms. Last November, the U.S. State Department had submitted a proposal to blacklist Ant Group in trade to deter American investors from joining its lucrative initial public offering. However, after Alibaba Group Holding Inc. President Michael Evans urged Wilbur to reject the bid, the Commerce Department repealed the proposal.
The escalating tension between China and America has been going on for months and was ignited by the pandemic and the Hong Kong protests. If the executive order successfully barred people in America from using these apps, the Asian-American community and Chinese international students may be the worst victims to suffer from the ban.
“I use Wechat Pay and Alipay at least three times a week to order food and things online. Trump cannot ban every popular Chinese app in America as China and America should learn from each other in terms of technology development,” said Wendy Fang, a Chinese international student in America.
Even if the order takes effect in 45 days, Trump is trying to cement his tough-on-China policy before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Biden has not shared many opinionated statements about China and has revealed little about his plans in dealing with the Sino-American relationship, though he could revoke the order on the first day of his presidency. It is very likely that he will adopt former president Barack Obama’s take on a peaceful and mutual Sino-American relationship.