Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taiwan has recently issued a series of restrictions on Chinese tech companies, from streaming apps to e-commerce.

Why it matters: Critics say that recent U.S. restrictions on Chinese tech companies stem from Trumpism rather than legitimate concerns. But Taiwan is spooked by Chinese tech as well.

  • The moves come amid a warming U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and as both countries grow more alarmed about Beijing's goals in the region.

What's happening: On Aug. 24, Taiwanese authorities ordered e-commerce website Taobao Taiwan to register as a Chinese company, a designation that in Taiwan comes with tougher regulations, rather than as a foreign company.

  • Taiwanese regulators said that Taobao Taiwan, which is owned by a British-registered company, is ultimately controlled by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which owns Taobao in mainland China.
  • Last week, Taiwan also issued new rules that prohibit Chinese streaming platforms Tencent and iQiyi from operating there.

The big picture: Taiwan's proximity to China, its tiny relative size, and the knowledge that the Chinese Communist Party aims to annex it has made some of the self-governing democracy's policies appear prescient.

  • Taiwan excluded Huawei from its digital infrastructure back in 2014. Taiwan's digital minister, Audrey Tang, has called Huawei a "Trojan horse."
  • Young Taiwanese occupied the nation's legislature in 2014 in protest of a potential trade pact with China, concerned about the political leverage that Beijing could wield if the two economies deepened their ties. Concerns about China's use of economic power to interfere in democratic politics did not become widespread in Western countries until around 2018.

Context: Taiwan's recent moves come amid growing concern in several countries about Chinese tech companies.

  • President Trump recently issued an executive order calling for the forced sale of Chinese video app TikTok to a non-Chinese company and prohibiting transactions with Chinese messaging app WeChat.
  • Several European countries, after U.S. urging, have stated that they will limit or exclude Chinese telecom giant Huawei from their 5G networks.
  • India, embroiled in a border dispute with China, has banned dozens of Chinese apps.

Yes, but: It's not clear what major national security concerns would be alleviated by the Trump administration's executive order on WeChat. And vague wording has left Chinese people abroad worried about what new barriers they may face when trying to stay in touch with loved ones back in China.

  • In addition, the Trump administration's tendency to mix politics and business has muddied the waters, fueling speculation that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's private warning to the administration last October influenced the administration's decision to investigate TikTok — which is a direct Facebook competitor.

The bottom line: The Taiwanese government views Chinese tech companies as a serious problem deserving of regulation, scrutiny and, if necessary, exclusion.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2020 - World

Right-wing media falsely ties Black Lives Matter movement to Beijing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Right-wing outlets and commentators have recently spread a false claim linking the Chinese Communist Party to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Why it matters: Such claims raise concerns that a real issue — that of Chinese government interference in U.S. politics — could be wrongly invoked along partisan lines to attack Americans engaging in legitimate activities.

Oct 20, 2020 - World

Sweden bans Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE from 5G networks


Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

Sweden banned Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, citing China’s “extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology.”

The big picture: Since the Trump administration announced its own ban last year, the U.S. government has increasingly pressured allies to follow its lead amid growing tensions between the West and China. In July, the United Kingdom became the first European country to announce plans to exclude Huawei from its networks by 2027.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The U.S.-China climate rupture

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Well that, as Ron Burgundy would say, escalated quickly. China's foreign ministry is accusing the Trump administration of "major retrogression" on climate and being an environmental "troublemaker."

Why it matters: China's unusual statement Monday widens the rupture between the world's largest carbon emitters as global climate efforts are flagging and the pandemic's effect on emissions is too small to be consequential in the long term.