Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, owned by Alibaba (BABA) - Get Report and controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, as well as Tencent's QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay are among eight apps that have been banned from being used to make payments in the United States.
"By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information," an executive order signed by President Trump late on Tuesday said.
Trump's move is purportedly aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese software applications, which have large user bases and access to sensitive data.
The surprise move, occurring just 13 days before Trump leaves the White House, deals another blow to relations between the world’s two largest economies, which have clashed over everything from trade and tariffs to the coronavirus pandemic to Hong Kong’s independence.
The executive order, which directed the Commerce Department to draft rules outlining which payments and transactions will be outlawed, will hit Tencent’s QQ, QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay as well as lesser-known apps CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office.
While President-elect Joe Biden could pause or erase the policy upon taking office Jan. 20, the order is still likely to face legal challenges similar to those mounted against the president’s prior efforts to force the sale of TikTok from China’s ByteDance and ban the WeChat messaging app.