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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
Dec 1, 2020 - World

Australia-China tensions ratchet up over doctored Afghanistan photo

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/AFP via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology and said China’s government should be "utterly ashamed" after a senior official tweeted a doctored image showing an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.

Background: The tweet referred to a recent inspector general's report about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. But the hawkish messages from China toward Australia didn’t start there.

Dec 1, 2020 - Technology

Facebook, Google push deals despite antitrust scrutiny

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook announced Monday that it has purchased a customer service chatbot startup called Kustomer. The app reportedly cost Facebook $1 billion, the same amount it paid for Instagram in 2012.

Why it matters: The deal is the latest sign that the world's biggest tech companies, despite facing enormous antitrust scrutiny globally, will not stop buying up other companies.
.

49 mins ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.