US President Donald Trump has signed another executive order that targets Chinese technology and Chinese companies.

This time he signed an order that bans transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, Reuters reported.

The move is the latest parting shot from President Trump against Chinese institutions, and comes just two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Executive order

The United States motives for the ban is to curb the threat to Americans posed by Chinese software applications, which have large user bases and access to sensitive data, a senior administration official told Reuters.

The order states the United States must take “aggressive action” against developers of Chinese software applications to protect national security.

The executive order charges the US Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive within 45 days.

Among the eight Chinese apps targetted are Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay; CamScanner; SHAREit; Tencent QQ; Vmate published by Alibaba Group subsidiary UCWeb; and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office.

“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,” the executive order states.

Such data collection “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information,” the document adds.

China response

As might be expected, Chinese authorities were not best pleased at the latest development.

China will take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of companies in view of the Trump order, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted by Reuters as telling a regular briefing on Wednesday.

Chunying also added that the US was abusing its national power and unreasonably suppressing foreign companies.

Kingsoft meanwhile said in a statement published by Chinese state media that it did not expect Trump’s order to substantially impact the company’s business in the short term.

Ant, the Biden transition team and SHAREit also reportedly declined to comment.

Alibaba, Tencent, CamScanner and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Future direction

President-elect Joe Biden has yet to detail his stance on Chinese technology and companies during his tenure.

He could for example revoke President Trump’s order on the first day of his presidency.

A US official told Reuters meanwhile that despite the 45-day time line laid out by the order, the Commerce Department plans to act before 20 January (Biden’s inauguration) to identify prohibited transactions.

President Trump has also signed executive orders signed in August directing the US Commerce Department to block some US transactions with WeChat and TikTok.

The White House also in November issued an executive order banning US investment in alleged Chinese military companies including China’s top chipmaker SMIC and oil giant CNOOC.

And last month, the Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese companies, including Chinese drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, to a trade blacklist.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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