U.S. Government’s Strategy to Contain China Involves Banning the Apps TikTok and WeChat

President of the United States wants to ban Chinese applications because they represent a risk to the national security of the country

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Ericson Scorsim. Lawyer and Consultant in Communication Law, focusing on Technologies, Internet, Media and Telecommunications.  PhD in Law from the University of São Paulo (USP). Author of the Communications Law Collection.

 

The US government has announced that it will ban the apps TikTok and WeChat. According to the government, applications originating from Chinese companies pose risks to U.S. national security, as they allow for the collection of sensitive data from U.S citizens and businesses.  According to the Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump under the International Emergency Economic Power Act and National Emergencies Act, and Executive Order 13.873 (securing the information and communications technology and services supply chain), WeChat, an application provided by Chinese company WeChat, captures immense amounts of U.S. data, which poses a national security risk.[1] In turn, the Executive Order on TikTok, a mobile application provided by the Chinese company Bytedance, adopts the same reasoning, and mentions that the video sharing application also collects huge amounts of data, including geolocation data and internet browsing history, representing a threat to the national security of the United States.[2]  There is a risk that these apps are collecting personal data and tracking the location of federal government employees and contractors to obtain personal information for purposes of blackmail, extortion and/or corporate espionage. This national security policy is aligned with the following U.S. State Department strategies: i) Clean Carrier – the assurance of disconnection of Chinese telecommunications companies from the U.S. telecommunications networks; ii) Clean Store – the removal of untrustworthy applications of Chinese origin from U.S. company application stores given privacy risks, content censorship, and dissemination of advertising and misinformation; iii) Clean Apps – preventing Chinese mobile phone manufacturers from installing or making applications available in their application store, so U.S. companies must remove applications from the Huawei application store; iv) Clean Cloud – preventing sensitive U.S. citizen and business confidential information related to their intellectual property from being stored and processed in cloud computing systems related to adversary countries, such as Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom, and Tencent; v) Clean Cable – ensuring that submarine cable networks connecting the United States to other countries are not subject to the collection of intelligence signals by the Chinese government, in relation to the global Internet, and this guarantee should be extended to other countries impacted by submarine cable networks. As noted, the targets of the U.S. foreign policy strategy toward China are: telecommunications network infrastructure, application stores, applications themselves, cloud computing infrastructure, and submarine cable networks. The U.S. government is studying measures to order Internet service providers to block TikTok and WeChat applications. So, for example, Google may be forced to prevent the installation of Chinese applications on its Android software.  Also, Amazon may be required to remove Chinese applications from its store. Another possible measure is the obligation to divest TikTok and WeChat operations in the United States, thus US citizens and companies could be forced to divest themselves of investment interests in Chinese companies. The measures are adopted in the context of the dispute between the United States and China for global leadership. The United States sees China as a threat to its global leadership, especially in the face of 5G technology, led by Chinese company Huawei.

 

[1] Executive Order on addressing the threat posed by WeChat, August 6, 2020.

[2] Executive order on addressing the threat posed by TikTok, August, 6, 2020.

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