With just two weeks of his presidency left, President Trump has issued what could be among his final executive orders. This order bans U.S. transactions with eight Chinese apps, the most prominent of which are AliPay and WeChat Pay, reports Bloomberg. Under the order, the ban will be initiated in 45 days.
The Trump administration says the ban on the apps is needed due to national security concerns. AliPay, WeChat Pay, and the other apps can collect user information, including financial transactions and location data, among other metrics. Administration officials say this information can eventually land in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party due to Chinese laws that make it easy for the government to compel Chinese companies to hand over user data. Thus, Trump officials say, the CCP could use the apps to surveil Americans—including government officials.
But though Trump has signed the executive order, there is still a chance the ban will never come into effect. For starters, the ban is not scheduled to come into effect until 31 days after Trump leaves office. When President-elect Joe Biden assumes the presidency, it’s possible he could simply decide not to enforce Trump’s executive order. Then there are the courts. AliPay, WeChat, and the other companies could fight the executive order in the courts, just as TikTok and WeChat did against earlier Trump executive orders.
Ultimately, though, if the ban is enacted it presents more of a political problem in U.S.-Chinese relations than a threat to AliPay or WeChat’s businesses. While billions use the apps in China, Bloomberg notes that in the U.S. WeChat only had 1.6 million downloads last year and AliPay just over 207,000, according to data from Sensor Tower.
We’ve reached out to AliPay and WeChat about Trump’s latest executive order and will update this post if we hear back.