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Trump bans 8 Communist China-linked apps from US transactions through executive order

President Donald J. Trump. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
January 05, 2021

On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump signed a new executive order banning any U.S. transactions with eight Chinese software applications.

The executive order bans “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” from doing business with people who “develop or control” the Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office software applications. The ban is set to take effect 45 days from Trump signing the order.

The executive order states, “The United States has assessed that a number of Chinese connected software applications automatically capture vast swaths of information from millions of users in the United States, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information, which would allow the PRC and CCP access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

In an accompanying letter to Congress, Trump said, “The continuing activity of the [People’s Republic of China] and the Chinese Communist Party to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons’ data makes clear that there is an intent to use bulk data collection to advance China’s economic and national security agenda,” Trump wrote. “To deal with this threat, additional steps are required against those who develop or control certain Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security.”

Trump’s order also directs the Secretary of Commerce to evaluate additional Chinese-operated software applications that may pose a risk to U.S. national security. The Commerce Secretary is also directed to consult with the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to provide the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs with further recommendations on ways to prevent the sale, transfer or access of U.S. data to foreign adversaries.

The latest executive order comes two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned U.S. companies to avoid Chinese hardware and software services after they assessed new Chinese laws could be used to compel Chinese firms to turn over data of their U.S. business partners and clients to Chinese authorities.

With the order set to take effect after Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take office, it is unclear how the order will effect U.S. policy going into the new administration. A U.S. official told Reuters that while the order won’t take effect for 45 days, the Commerce Department plans to start identifying prohibited transactions before Jan. 20.

Another official told Reuters that Trump’s latest order is similar to ones he issued against TikTok, another Chinese-owned software application, which TikTok has challenged.