President Donald Trump has banned transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group‘s Alipay, which will escalate tensions with Beijing as he prepares to leave office later this month, Reuters reported.
Trump implemented the measure via executive order and will leave the particulars of how to define what transactions will be banned to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In addition to Alipay, the list of the companies affected, according to Reuters, includes “Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay” as well as “CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office.”
The move is aimed to crack down on threats from Chinese software applications against U.S. citizens’ privacy. The apps targeted all have large user databases, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, according to Reuters, said he supports Trump’s commitment to “protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
While an anonymous U.S. official said the Commerce Department will have 45 days to act, the department plans to complete the measure before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Reuters reported.
Transactions prohibited by the Trump administration are likely to see court challenges, similarly to how it went down when WeChat and TikTok were facing bans last year. The new action looks to block some transactions blocked by U.S. courts, a Trump administration official said, per Reuters.
Trump’s opposition to WeChat and TikTok made headlines for much of the latter half of 2020 as he attempted to get the popular apps removed from app stores over concerns about national security, PYMNTS reported. In October, a judge said new evidence didn’t sway her opinion, refusing to grant the removal from app stores.
Users of WeChat, protesting the Trump administration’s moves, said the government was attempting an “unprecedented ban” of a whole medium of communication, which is particularly used by Chinese Americans talking with relatives from their home countries.