US President Donald Trump issued executive orders that would ban any US transactions with Chinese companies that own TikTok and WeChat, the two biggest Chinese apps. Under the orders, US firms must stop doing business with the companies within 45 days. Mr. Trump says he acted to “protect our national security”.
The order doesn’t seem to ban Americans from using TikTok, said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University Of Notre Dame. She added that such an order would be nearly impossible to enforce in the first place.
“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 United States,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
TikTok is a video sharing app that’s widely popular among young people in the US and elsewhere. It is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which operates a separate version for the Chinese market. WeChat and its sister app Weixin in China are hugely popular messaging apps; it is used widely around the world for payments, chatting, and as an interface for other apps.
Microsoft said on Sunday that it was pushing forward with talks to acquire the app following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and the President. On Monday, Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer.
The US president’s order comes after India’s government recently banned nearly 60 Chinese apps, including of TikTok and WeChat. It is unclear what “transactions” would be banned under Trump’s executive order, but the move represents an escalation of tensions between the US and China in the technological cold war.
The order against Tencent could have complications for users beyond WeChat, which is crucial for personal communications and organizations that do business with China. Tencent shares fell to 4% on the news. Tencent and ByteDance declined to comment.