Trump Points New Ban on Alipay and Different Chinese language Apps

Alipay is a cost and life-style app with greater than 1 billion customers.

Picture: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg Information

WASHINGTON—President Trump signed an govt order Tuesday banning transactions with eight Chinese language-connected apps, together with the Alipay cost platform owned by Chinese language billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. and apps owned by Chinese language tech big Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Mr. Trump stated the apps can entry personal info from their customers. It could possibly be utilized by the Chinese language authorities to “observe the places of Federal staff and contractors, and construct dossiers of non-public info,” he added.

The order takes impact in 45 days—after Mr. Trump leaves workplace. A spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden’s transition group declined to touch upon the order.

U.S. corporations that do enterprise with China—together with Apple Inc., Ford Motor Co. , Walmart Inc. and Walt Disney Co—beforehand objected to an govt order by Mr. Trump concentrating on Tencent’s WeChat multipurpose app, saying it was very important to conducting enterprise there. U.S. companies may increase comparable considerations concerning the new order.

A federal decide has issued a preliminary injunction blocking that order, which the federal government has appealed.

In a briefing, a senior administration official stated the brand new govt order was geared toward stopping U.S. customers’ knowledge from being utilized by the Chinese language authorities to gas what the official termed its “mass software for international oppression.”

“That is one other instance of the U.S. stretching the idea of nationwide safety, abusing its nationwide energy, to oppress international corporations,” Chinese language Overseas Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated Wednesday. “It has some impression on Chinese language corporations however extra importantly, it will ultimately damage the pursuits of American customers.”

One former U.S. commerce official stated the chief order might increase new considerations amongst companies concerning the potential for limiting some transactions in China, a scorching market for a lot of U.S. multinationals.

On the identical time, the Trump administration’s transfer additionally raises the stakes for the incoming Biden administration by highlighting more and more worrisome problems with nationwide safety, privateness and lack of entry to China for some U.S. tech corporations.

Alipay, a cost and life-style app with greater than 1 billion customers, is owned by Ant Group, the Chinese language financial-technology big managed by Mr. Ma. An Ant consultant had no fast remark.

The chief order additionally applies to 3 apps owned by Tencent— WeChat Pay, QQWallet and Tencent QQ. A Tencent consultant had no fast remark.

Whereas WeChat and Alipay are ubiquitous in China, they’re much less widespread within the U.S. Alipay, for instance, was downloaded 207,000 instances within the U.S. final 12 months from Apple’s App Retailer and the Google Play app retailer, in keeping with the analysis agency Sensor Tower Inc. WeChat —which incorporates WeChat Pay—was downloaded 1.6 million instances final 12 months, Sensor Tower stated.

Along with the apps owned by Ant and Tencent, the order applies to Camscanner, a scanning app owned by INTSIG Data Co. in Shanghai. In keeping with Sensor Tower, it had 4.Four million downloads within the U.S. final 12 months.

The ban additionally applies to Chinese language-connected apps referred to as SHAREit, Vmate and WPS Workplace.

The brand new transfer comes after the Trump administration issued a pair of govt orders in August meant to impose new limits on the Chinese language social-media apps TikTok and WeChat, citing nationwide safety considerations. Each orders have confronted authorized challenges.

Two federal judges additionally individually blocked the Trump administration’s TikTok ban from going into impact. The ban would have restricted U.S. corporations from conducting transactions with TikTok, together with internet hosting the corporate’s knowledge and delivering the corporate’s content material, which might have primarily made the app inoperable within the U.S.

In issuing its govt order calling on TikTok to successfully be shut down or bought to a U.S. firm, the administration stated it feared ByteDance might share details about U.S. customers with the Chinese language authorities. The corporate stated it will by no means achieve this.

Anna Ashton, vp for presidency affairs on the U.S.-China Enterprise Council, stated Mr. Trump’s order gave the impression to be based mostly on the likelihood that knowledge could possibly be shared with China’s authorities—and never on any precise incidents.

The Chinese language-owned app TikTok has been labelled a national-security menace by the U.S., nevertheless it’s not distinctive within the knowledge it collects. WSJ explains why international locations are constructing digital partitions and treating person knowledge like a sovereign asset, and the way that might change our tech. Illustration: Zoë Soriano

“As with the WeChat and TikTok govt orders, the underlying menace that the administration is figuring out right here is just not clearly tied to any particular actions taken by the businesses named within the order,” Ms. Ashton stated in an announcement. “Chinese language knowledge breaches and hacking actions are referenced, however they don’t seem to be tied on to the businesses the president has focused.

A senior administration official stated the White Home continues to consider its earlier orders regarding WeChat and TikTok are legitimate. The official added that the brand new one probably couldn’t be attacked beneath the Worldwide Emergency Financial Powers Act, the actual legislation that has tripped up the sooner orders.

The Trump administration additionally has sought to limit Chinese language-based telecommunications corporations similar to Huawei Applied sciences Co. by means of govt orders. These actions had been geared toward securing U.S. networks but additionally appeared to undercut the Chinese language corporations’ competitiveness all over the world when next-generation 5G wi-fi service is starting to be made accessible.

Write to Andrew Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com and John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

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Appeared within the January 6, 2021, print version as ‘Trump Order Hits Cost Apps.’

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