President Trump widened the scope of his strict foreign policy targeting Chinese tech this week when he effectively banned WeChat by executive order.
WeChat is a messaging and social media app that is used by more than a billion people globally to make phone calls, read news, send money, hail taxis and play games.
There are more than 350,000 Chinese students in the United States, and millions more Chinese people who live and work here. Trump’s ban threatens to cut off their ability to communicate with friends and family back home.
“I came to the U.S. for free access to information. I feel I’m targeted by Trump,” Tingru Nan, a Chinese graduate student at the University of Delaware, told Reuters. “I’m living in constant fear now thinking I might get disconnected with friends and families.”
The exact wording of the executive order appears to go further than just banning WeChat. Trump prohibited “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings … or any subsidiary of that entity.”
Tencent Holdings, the Chinese tech conglomerate that owns WeChat, also has holdings in everything from video games to the music industry.
According to PC Gamer, Tencent owns 100% of Riot Games, which developed the massively popular League of Legends, and owns 40% of Epic Games, which developed Fortnite. Tencent also has stakes in Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard and several other gaming companies.
A ban on “any transaction” of Tencent Holdings could have significant consequences for gamers, but it doesn’t appear that the Trump administration has gone that far yet. The Los Angeles Times reported that video games owned by Tencent won’t be affected by Trump’s executive order this time.
“White House official confirmed to the LA Times that the EO only blocks transactions related to WeChat,” the Times reported.
Fox Business made multiple requests for comment to Riot Games, Epic Games, and Activision Blizzard, but did not hear back.
While the language of the order is unclear, lawyers from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP wrote in the National Law Review Saturday that it is unlikely the Trump administration’s intent is to ban all transactions with Tencent Holdings.
“Given the broad language in the Orders, it does appear that U.S. app stores, carriers, or internet service providers (ISPs) will likely not be able to continue carrying the services while TikTok and WeChat are owned by these Chinese entities,” the lawyers wrote. “However, it is unlikely that the goal is to prohibit all transactions with these companies as a deterrent or punishment tool – which would essentially amount to designating them as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) – the Orders clearly contemplate some limitations to be imposed on the types of transactions subject to the Order by the Secretary of Commerce.”
The executive orders gave both TikTok and WeChat a 45-day grace period, which is likely in place to give American companies a chance to purchase TikTok. Microsoft appears to be in the lead right now to purchase the app, but Google and Facebook have also expressed interest. GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE
It doesn’t look like the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China will slow down anytime soon. The ban on TikTok was expected, but the WeChat ban was a surprise to many, and it comes after Pompeo said earlier in the week that the U.S. would get rid of “untrusted Chinese apps.”