Thu, October 28, 2021

in-focus

Trump bans transactions with the Chinese apps Alipay and WeChat Pay


Taking his campaign against Chinese technology down to the wire, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order banning transactions with a string of Chinese mobile apps, including Alipay and WeChat Pay.

The order will take effect in 45 days, which will bleed into the Biden administration, leaving its fate unclear.

The new order follows a similar ban Trump began pursuing in August, when he prohibited transactions with short-form video app TikTok and the social-networking app WeChat, calling them national security threats. Federal courts have so far blocked those bans from taking place as they hear lawsuits from supporters of the apps.

The new order, issued Tuesday evening, also refers to the additional apps as security threats, saying they "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 [China] and [the Chinese Communist Party] access to Americans' personal and proprietary information."

The order doesn't detail the types of transactions to be banned. It instead instructs the Department of Commerce to define the specific transactions in the coming weeks.

Legal experts have previously said that the nature of the transaction bans included in these types of executive orders could range from banning the apps from being downloaded from Apple and Google app stores, to forbidding all financial transactions.

Alipay and WeChat Pay are mobile payment apps accepted by some U.S. retailers - largely to cater to Chinese tourists and visitors. Their corporate owners, Ant Group and Tencent, didn't offer any immediate comment on the order.

The other targeted apps are CamScanner, an app that turns a mobile phone into a document scanner, and QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office.

CamScanner had 4.4 million downloads in the Apple and Google app stores last year in the United States, according to analytics provider Sensor Tower. Alipay had 207,000 downloads.

The targeting of Alipay marks another headache for Ant Group's controlling shareholder, Jack Ma, the Chinese tech entrepreneur who has recently clashed with Chinese authorities.

Published : January 06, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Jeanne Whalen