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Trump's bans on China apps reversed in US

By AI HEPING in New York | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-06-11 09:26

A reflection of the US flag is seen on the signs of the WeChat and TikTok apps in this illustration picture taken on Sept 19, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Beijing calls for just treatment of firms after 'positive step in the right direction'

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday reversed former president Donald Trump's executive orders that sought to ban downloads of the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat in the United States.

Biden replaced them with a review process by the Commerce Department to determine whether apps controlled by a foreign adversary present risks to US national security and the security of personal data, the White House said.

After the review, the government can "take action, as appropriate", the administration said. The order does not target any companies specifically.

China's Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that the move to reverse the orders against the Chinese apps was a "positive step in the right direction".

Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said the US should treat Chinese companies fairly and justly and refrain from politicizing trade issues.

On the same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China has long urged the US to earnestly respect the principles of the market economy and international trade, stop generalizing the concept of national security, stop abusing state power to suppress Chinese technology companies, and treat them in a fair, just and nondiscriminatory manner.

"The Chinese government will continue to firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies," he told a regular news conference.

The Biden order authorizes the Commerce Department to begin vetting companies and their services immediately, a senior official said, according to Bloomberg. Two reports by the commerce secretary on recommendations for actions and additional executive and legislative measures must be completed in 120 days and 180 days, respectively.

In attempting to ban the video-sharing platform TikTok and messaging and payments app WeChat last year, Trump said apps owned by businesses in China "threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States".

Trump ordered last August that the TikTok app, which lets users share video clips and is especially popular with young people, be sold to a US firm or face a ban in the country. But the effort to force a sale failed.

TikTok sued, saying the administration had not proved that the app poses a security threat because of its parent company's roots in China. Federal judges said last year the administration failed to show those apps posed a national security threat that would justify a ban and blocked Trump's orders.

Legal challenges

Given the legal challenges, the app is still available in the US. The Biden administration asked a federal judge in February to pause litigation while the White House reviewed the ruling by Trump.

On a call with reporters on Wednesday, Biden administration officials said Trump's executive orders were not drafted "in the soundest fashion", The New York Times reported.

The officials did not say if the Biden administration would attempt to pressure Beijing-based ByteDance, which owns TikTok, to move user data to a company based in the US, the newspaper said.

"Removing the ban on TikTok and WeChat simply means that pragmatism outweighs ideology," George Koo, a retired international business adviser in Silicon Valley and a political critic, told China Daily.

"Both apps have gained such popular acceptance in the US that banning their use would raise the hackles of American users. Discretion is better than being stupid," said Koo, who frequently writes on US-China relations.

TikTok has nearly 700 million users. WeChat has more than a billion users worldwide and is owned by Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings.

TikTok had no comment. The US WeChat Users Alliance, which successfully sued the US government over Trump's restrictions last year, said it welcomed the move to revoke the ban.

Lia Zhu in San Francisco, Zhong Nan and Cui Haipei in Beijing contributed to this story.

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