United States President, Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay.
Trump’s move comes in less than two weeks before President-elect, Joe Biden takes over and it is the latest order targeted at Chinese companies.
A senior official told Reuters that the executive order is aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese software applications.
The order tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive and targets Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay as well as Alipay.
It says, “The United States must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security.”
The order also named CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office.
“By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information,” the executive order stated.
Such data collection “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information,” the document added.
A US official told Reuters that even though the order gave the Commerce Department 45 days to act, the department plans to act before January 20 when Trump leaves office to identify prohibited transactions.
Biden can, however, choose to revoke the order on the first day of his presidency.
Another official said the order mirrors the executive orders earlier signed by Trump in August which directed the Department of Commerce to block some transactions with WeChat and Chinese-owned TikTok.
Recall that the restrictions were blocked by courts mainly on freedom of speech grounds.
US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he supports Trump’s “commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.