After successfully kicking out tech giants like Huawei and ZTE, the US government has apparently set its eyes on smaller fish. That said, the user bases of short-video platform TikTok and instant messaging service WeChat are so large that one can’t take for granted the immediate disruption a ban would have on both the companies owning them as well as unsuspecting users. That, however, is exactly what will happen to both TikTok and WeChat if they don’t give in to the new Executive Order from US President Donald Trump and sell their US operations to an American company within 45 days.
Last Friday, President Trump threatened to ban TikTok in the US on the usual grounds of national security concerns. The popular short-video social network owned by Chinese company ByteDance has long been accused of being a potential security and privacy risk due to the fact that users’ data are stored in servers on Chinese soil, no matter where the users’ are from.
Unlike Huawei’s case, however, Trump is offering a ByteDance a way to keep running in the US, by selling to an American company that is subject to the jurisdiction of the US government. Also unlike Huawei’s case, Trump made the rather unusual statement that such a deal would have to include giving the US Treasury a substantial amount of money.
Fortunately for TikTok users, Microsoft seems to be persistent in relieving ByteDance of having to operate in the US, the UK, Canada, and some other regions. In an unexpected turn of events, however, the US leader also issued an Executive Order threatening the same ban on WeChat, owned by Chinese giant Tencent. Specifically, the EO covers WeChat’s money transfer feature.
The Executive Order gives these two Chinese companies until September 15 to find a US buyer or get out of the country. Of course, this isn’t something that China is taking lightly, increasing the already high tensions between the two countries. This could, in turn, also put American companies in China at a disadvantage, including the likes of Apple who has a new patent infringement trial that could see almost all of its products banned from China.