Donald Trump has issued a pair of executive orders that would ban any United States transactions with the Chinese companies that own TikTok and WeChat, saying the United States must take “aggressive action” in the interest of national security.
Executive orders issued late on Thursday would prohibit “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” with the companies, beginning in 45 days.
The video-sharing app has come under fire from United States lawmakers and the Trump administration over national security concerns. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance faces a deadline of 15 September either to sell its United States operations to Microsoft or another United States firm or face an outright ban.
Sources previously told Reuters that ByteDance executives valued all of TikTok at more than $50bn. Under a Chinese law introduced in 2017, companies have an obligation to support and cooperate with the country’s national intelligence work.
“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump wrote in a letter to House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
WeChat, the other app targeted by Trump’s orders, is used widely around the world for payments, chatting and as an interface for other apps. It is a key channel of communication between the United States and China. While most Western messaging apps are banned in China, users in the United States use WeChat to conduct business transactions, advertise or communicate with friends and family in China.
The platform’s parent company Tencent has also invested in a number of United States companies including Tesla, Reddit and Spotify. It also owns a 48% share of Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite.
Shares in Tencent, Asia’s second-biggest company by market value, fell 9% in Hong Kong after the order was issued.
It remains unclear what “transactions” would be banned under Trump’s executive order, but the move represents an escalation of tensions between the United States and China in a technological cold war. The United States president’s order comes after India’s government recently banned nearly 60 Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok and WeChat, after a clash between the two nations’ militaries.
China has also blocked United States tech companies from doing business in the country for years and has placed regulations on United States websites and social media platforms that are accessible there.
Trump: United States will end reliance on China
The United States will end its reliance on China and other foreign nations for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, President Donald Trump has said, asserting that Beijing would have to pay the price for the wound it has inflected on America and the world by spreading the deadly coronavirus.
President Trump and leaders of several countries have accused China of not being transparent in reporting the deadly disease, leading to huge human casualties and economic crisis across the world. China, however, has denied United States’ accusation of covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused America of attempting to divert public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
“What China did is a terrible thing. Whether it was incompetence or on purpose, it was a terrible thing that they did … not only to the United States, but to the world. A terrible thing,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday before flying to Ohio to visit a Whirlpool manufacturing plant.
What China did to the rest of the world and the United States is a disgrace, said the president, asserting that Beijing would have to pay the price for the wound it has inflected on America and the world by spreading the deadly coronavirus.