The U.S. Commerce Department issued an order this morning that will bar people in the United States from downloading Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting on September 20.
TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among younger Americans.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, and is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.
The Commerce Department order will “de-platform the two apps in the United States and bar Apple, Google and others from offering the apps on any platform that can be reached from within the United States.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a written statement explained “We have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”
Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Google were summarily blocked by China’s “Internet Censorship Policy” beginning in 2009.
Taiwan scrambles jets as 18 Chinese planes buzz during U.S. visit
Taiwan scrambled fighter jets on Friday as 18 Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, crossing the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, in response to a senior U.S. official holding talks in Taipei.
China had earlier announced combat drills and denounced what it called collusion between the island, which it claims as part of its territory, and the United States.
U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades - to which China had promised a “necessary response”.
Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of large-scale air and sea drills last week.
With a U.S. presidential election looming in November, Sino-U.S. relations are already under huge strain from a trade war, U.S. digital security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.
In Beijing, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday’s maneuvers, about which he gave no details, involved the People’s Liberation Army’s eastern theater command.
“They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ren said.
He said Taiwan was a purely internal Chinese affair and accused its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of stepping up “collusion” with the United States.
Trying to “use Taiwan to control China” or “rely on foreigners to build oneself up” was wishful thinking and futile. “Those who play with fire will get burnt,” Ren said.
China-United States Relations enter into Cold War
Investment flows between China and the US fell to their lowest level in almost a decade in the first half of the year, as the coronavirus pandemic and political tensions cast a shadow over U.S.-Sino Relations.
Capital flows between the two countries amounted to $10.9bn in the first six months of 2020, lower than any period since 2011, according to a report from consultancy Rhodium Group and the National Committee on United States-China Relations, a non-governmental organization.
“Right now we’re moving towards decoupling,” said Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations. He added that relations were worse than at any period he had experienced since the 1970s, including the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Orlins continues. “It’s human rights. It’s economic reform. It’s the South China Sea. It’s the Hong Kong National Security Law. It’s Taiwan . . . there is a long, long list of issues where there are very high tensions leading the two largest economies in the world into an inevitable Cold War."