US President Donald Trump’s continued vendetta against Chinese companies continues as the head of state makes it illegal for US firms to do business with Chinese firms from September.
In an executive order signed Thursday, Trump has said that in 45 days, US companies will not be able to do business with WeChat, owned by arguably one of China’s largest firms, Tencent. This is in addition to a forthcoming ban on doing business with ByteDance, the firm behind TikTok.
While we’ve known that Trump isn’t a fan of TikTok for a while now, the target on WeChat was a bit of a shock.
The reason for the bans? These firms gather data which is apparently bad if you aren’t a US firm operating in the US.
“Like TikTok, WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information. In addition, the application captures the personal and proprietary information of Chinese nationals visiting the United States, thereby allowing the Chinese Communist Party a mechanism for keeping tabs on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives,” wrote the president.
It’s not like the US has ever used social media tools to monitor the online communication of its citizens without its knowledge. Oh wait, there was that small incident in which Edward Snowden revealed that yes, the US government was doing that.
There’s also the matter of Trump’s fear that China can access the data of US citizens. This is despite TikTok stating repeatedly that the Chinese government has no influence over its operations.
Trump, however, is using an exposed database discovered in 2019 as ammunition for the ban.
“For example, in March 2019, a researcher reportedly discovered a Chinese database containing billions of WeChat messages sent from users in not only China but also the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia,” said Trump.
With that, and talks of WeChat censoring content in China (the irony is not lost on us), Trump has said that after 45 days, any firm doing business with WeChat is prohibited from doing so.
While Trump has taken issue with WeChat, it seems that other Tencent properties including Epic Games, Riot Games, Activision Blizzard and many, many more, are not in his sights.
The clock is now ticking especially for Microsoft which expressed interest in purchasing TikTok. Perhaps the firm is interested in buying WeChat as well?