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Trump speaking at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, on Jan. 4. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that prohibits transactions with eight Chinese software applications, claiming they pose a national security threat given their ability to access private information about their users.

Why it matters: The order comes two weeks before Trump leaves office, and it remains unclear whether President-elect Biden will continue enforcing Trump’s bans on Chinese companies.

The order bars any transactions with “persons that develop or control” the apps of Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, WPS Office and its subsidiaries after a 45-day period.

  • Payment platform Alipay is owned by Jack Ma's Ant Group, and WeChat Pay is owned by Tencent.
  • The order also requires Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider bans on other apps that are deemed national security threats, and calls for the commerce secretary, attorney general and director of national intelligence to release recommendations to prevent the transfer of data from U.S. users to foreign adversaries.

The big picture: Tuesday's order is a continuation of the Trump administration's campaign against Chinese companies.

  • Last year Trump issued orders banning two other popular Chinese-owned social media services, TikTok and WeChat, claiming they could be used for Chinese espionage and pose a national security risk to the American people.
  • He signed another in November prohibiting American companies and individuals from owning shares of companies previously listed as enabling the People's Liberation Army.
  • The New York Stock Exchange moved to delist three Chinese companies to comply with that order before reverting that decision on Monday.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ina Fried: The apps, essential for many transactions within China, are also key for those with relatives or business there.

What they're saying: "The Chinese government requires that all commercial companies, big and small, support the Chinese Communist Party’s political objectives as Chinese regulators have recently demonstrated," national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement Tuesday regarding the order.

  • "China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy explicitly aims to co-opt or coerce civilian enterprises into assisting the People’s Liberation Army."

Go deeper

12 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

11 hours ago - World

Top DOJ official John Demers on the agency's China Initiative

Assistant Attorney General John Demers speaks at a press conference on Oct. 19, 2020. Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images.

John Demers, the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice's National Security Division who leads the department's China Initiative, spoke with Axios about his view on the initiative's progress since its launch in 2018 and what he hopes to see in the coming year as Biden assumes office.

The big picture: The China Initiative made headlines with dozens of major indictments but also sparked controversy over its targeting of scientists with links to the Chinese government.

12 hours ago - World

U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

A protester in London. Photo Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With just one day left in President Trump's term, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially determined that China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of over 1 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitutes "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

Why it matters: The U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party's gross human rights abuses in its far northwest.