The US government is taking a new approach to its bilateral relationship with China, particularly on technology.
On Wednesday, the White House released a statement detailing president Joe Biden’s new executive order, easing the uncertainties of apps of Chinese origin operating in the United States, and altering former President, Donald Trump’s many executive orders targeting Chinese tech companies.
The shift from his predecessor’s approach comes with two new executive orders requiring the Commerce Department to review apps with ties to “jurisdiction of foreign adversaries” that may pose national security risks.
In August, Trump had issued executive order mandating short video app, TikTok to sell to US entities, as part of wider aim to stop the Chinese companies, including WeChat from operating in the United States. The second of Trump’s executive order announced in January, targeted eight Chinese services including WeChat’s payment feature, Tencent’s QQ messenger, and Ant Group’s Alipay wallet.
“The following orders are revoked: Executive Order 13942 of August 6, 2020 (Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok, and Taking Additional Steps To Address the National Emergency With Respect to the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain); Executive Order 13943 of August 6, 2020 (Addressing the Threat Posed by WeChat, and Taking Additional Steps To Address the National Emergency With Respect to the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain); and Executive Order 13971 of January 5, 2021 (Addressing the Threat Posed by Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled by Chinese Companies),” the statement said.
The bone of contention has been national security and protecting the privacy of American consumers from the Chinese military. While there was a bipartisan support for the move to protect Americans from data harvesting through tech companies by China, Trump style of stopping it was under question.
A District Court Judge had in November, enjoined the Commerce Department from barring data hosting, content delivery services and other technical transactions within the United States for TikTok.
TikTok has become a darling video platform, commanding millions of users, especially young people. Its popularity played a huge role in the ruling.
The judge ruled that Trump’s order would “have the effect of shutting down, within the United States, a platform for expressive activity used by approximately 700 million individuals globally. Over 100 million of these TikTok users are within the United States, and at least 50 million of these US users use the app on a daily basis.”
However, the ruling was just a reprieve, TikTok’s future in the US was still hanging on uncertainty until now.
While Biden reversed Trump executive orders, he also introduced new rules in their stead, elaborated to govern software applications and gadgets coming from other nations, not just China.
- In evaluating the risks of a connected software application, several factors should be considered. Consistent with the criteria established in Executive Order 13873, and in addition to the criteria set forth in implementing regulations, potential indicators of risk relating to connected software applications include: ownership, control, or management by persons that support a foreign adversary’s military, intelligence, or proliferation activities; use of the connected software application to conduct surveillance that enables espionage, including through a foreign adversary’s access to sensitive or confidential government or business information, or sensitive personal data; ownership, control, or management of connected software applications by persons subject to coercion or cooption by a foreign adversary; ownership, control, or management of connected software applications by persons involved in malicious cyber activities; a lack of thorough and reliable third-party auditing of connected software applications; the scope and sensitivity of the data collected; the number and sensitivity of the users of the connected software application; and the extent to which identified risks have been or can be addressed by independently verifiable measures.
Meanwhile, SCMP reported that China’s top legislative body has passed an anti-sanctions law, providing legal backing for sweeping retaliation against any individuals, their families and organizations responsible for imposing foreign sanctions against the country.
The legislation was passed on Thursday at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, but details of the law were not made public. The law was effective from Thursday.
It was the pattern that China had followed to counter Trump’s move to sell TikTok in August. China announced new restrictions on artificial-intelligence technology exports that further complicated the sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations, making it difficult for the US to singlehandedly make decisions on the sale of the video app.
The United States has been confronting Chinese cross-border operations with sanctions. The new law thus signals China’s readiness to protect the operations of its tech companies among other interests abroad, especially in the United States, even though Biden is taking a different route from Trump’s aggressive sanctions.