U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group's Alipay that is resulting in escalating tensions with Beijing before President-elect Joe Biden takes office this month.
"The following actions shall be prohibited beginning 45 days after the date of this order, to the extent permitted under applicable law: any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with persons that develop or control the following Chinese connected software applications, or with their subsidiaries, as those transactions and persons are identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) under subsection (e) of this section: Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office," the order said on Tuesday.
Trump in his executive order said that the "pace and pervasiveness" of the spread in the United States of certain connected mobile and desktop applications and other software developed or controlled by persons in the People's Republic of China, to include Hong Kong and Macau (China), continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.
"At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications," he added.
The order stated that by accessing personal electronic devices Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information.
"This data collection threatens to provide the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with access to Americans' personal and proprietary information--which would permit China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information," the order read.
The outgoing President stated that "the continuing activity of the PRC and the CCP" 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.
The order also mentioned India's efforts to curb the threat posed by Chinese apps to ban all such apps that were made by Chinese developers. "In fact, the Government of India has banned the use of more than 200 Chinese connected software applications throughout the country; in a statement, India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that the applications were "stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India'," the order stated.
The order released by the White House names "Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on President Trump's Executive Order said, "Consistent with the authorities designated to the Secretary of Commerce from the President, I have directed my Department to begin implementing the E.O.(Executive Order) 's directives, including identifying prohibited transactions related to certain Chinese connected software applications."
He added, " stand with President Trump's commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party, and the Department of Commerce will leverage the authorities of the E.O. to continue our mission to secure the nation, the economy, and the people of the United States."
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on the Executive Order Addressing Chinese Software Applications said that China's Military-Civil Fusion strategy explicitly aims to co-opt or coerce civilian enterprises into assisting the People's Liberation Army.
He added, "This executive order tasks the Secretary of Commerce to identify prohibited transactions involving eight Chinese software applications, including payment services; directs the Secretary of Commerce to identify and take appropriate action against other software applications; and develops a program to control the export of exploitable United States user data to foreign adversaries."
Under the Trump administration, ties between the two countries had deteriorated over issues such as human rights violations in Xinjiang, encroachment on the special status of Hong Kong, accusations of unfair trade practices by Beijing, lack of transparency concerning the pandemic and China's military aggression in various parts of the world.