December 6, 2021

Trump’s TikTok, WeChat Actions Targeting China Revoked by Biden



revoked a


-era attempt to ban Chinese-owned apps TikTok and


substituting Wednesday an executive order mandating a broad review of apps controlled by foreign adversaries to determine whether they pose a security threat to the U.S.

The new order doesn’t target any companies specifically, but creates the potential for an even broader crackdown on Chinese-owned apps than the Trump administration orders it replaces by mandating a review of all software applications with potential ties to countries such as China.

The Commerce Department was authorized to begin that review immediately, the White House said.

The executive order is designed to replace the Trump administration’s approach targeting individual companies with a broader process for reviewing risks posed by foreign-owned apps, according to senior Biden administration officials. The officials say the executive orders signed by former President Donald Trump were effectively unenforceable.

The officials say they remain concerned about security risks from Chinese and certain other foreign-owned apps, but that the executive orders signed by former President Donald Trump were effectively unenforceable.

Federal court rulings had blocked Mr. Trump’s orders from ever taking effect. In the case of TikTok, he had sought to shut down the app in the U.S. if the company wasn’t put under control of U.S. owners.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) framed Mr. Biden’s action as a retreat, however, tweeting on Wednesday: “This is a major mistake—shows alarming complacency regarding #China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as #China’s growing corporate influence.”

But others viewed it as a positive step.

“This is important because it signals an alignment of concern across two administrations on these issues, but also because the new administration is clearly moving from a review phase to more of an action phase,” said Eric Sayers, a U.S.-China tech expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., declined to comment. The popular video-sharing app has an estimated 100 million users in the U.S.

WeChat, a multipurpose app popular in China that is owned by tech giant

Tencent Holdings Ltd.

, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

China’s U.S. embassy spokesman, Liu Pengyu, said in a statement that China “opposes the U.S. abusing its national power under the pretext of national security to suppress and coerce non-American companies.”

“We urge the U.S. government to provide an open, fair, just and nondiscriminatory business environment for foreign companies,” the statement said.

Wednesday’s executive order requires the Commerce Department to review apps developed or owned by people or companies “subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary, including the People’s Republic of China,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The review would include apps that could be used to support military or intelligence activities by other countries, or could be used to collect sensitive personal data, the White House said.

U.S. officials have maintained that TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps collect data that could be shared with China’s authoritarian government. Those companies have disputed that contention.

The Biden executive order also revokes a Trump-era ban affecting the Alipay payment platform, which is owned by Chinese billionaire

Jack Ma’s

Ant Group Co., and apps owned by Shenzhen-based Tencent—WeChat Pay, QQWallet and Tencent QQ.

Ant Group declined to comment.

In addition, the Trump order applied to Camscanner, a scanning app owned by INTSIG Information Co. in Shanghai, as well as Chinese-connected apps known as SHAREit, Vmate and WPS Office.

The WeChat app, in particular, is widely used by U.S. companies that do business in China. The U.S.-China Business Council, which represents many of those companies, said it didn’t have enough information about the new executive order to comment on the security provisions.

But the group did say the White House should work to establish global agreements on data flows and privacy.

“Without international agreements, there’s a real danger that individual country data flows and privacy protection policies will throttle innovation, cripple the Internet of things, and adversely affect future US and global economic growth,” the group said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that the Biden administration had shelved the Trump administration’s plan to force a sale of TikTok amid ongoing legal challenges.

At the time, the Biden administration said it was developing a comprehensive approach to protecting data security, and was reviewing the previous administration’s action to determine whether the national security threat cited by Mr. Trump continued to warrant an outright ban.

The Chinese-owned app TikTok has been labelled a national-security threat by the U.S., but it’s not unique in the data it collects. WSJ explains why countries are building digital walls and treating user data like a sovereign asset, and how that could change our tech. Illustration: Zoë Soriano

In April, ByteDance named Shou Zi Chew as TikTok’s new chief executive, replacing former YouTube executive Vanessa Papps, who became TikTok’s interim head in 2020 after the abrupt resignation of former

Walt Disney Co.


Kevin Mayer.

Executives at TikTok said they interpreted the ascension of Mr. Chew, who is based in Singapore, as an indication that TikTok no longer viewed its relationship with the U.S. as its greatest risk.

U.S. administration officials said Wednesday that TikTok continues to undergo a separate review by a government panel that reviews cross-border business deals on the basis of national security.

James Lewis, a China tech expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if the panel review doesn’t produce a settlement, “TikTok should expect to be back on the chopping block,” facing the same pressures in a Commerce Department review as it did during the Trump administration.

The new order also seeks recommendations on further toughening of the U.S. approach to protect sensitive data such as genetic information. Administration officials say they also plan to seek more involvement of other friendly countries in its efforts to police data practices of apps based in potentially unfriendly countries.

The action is the latest sign of the Biden administration’s emerging China policy, which represents a tougher approach acknowledging Beijing’s economic and geopolitical strength.

In March, the U.S. joined allies in imposing sanctions against Chinese officials engaged in the mass incarceration of mainly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

Last week, the president expanded a Trump-era prohibition on Americans investing in Chinese companies with purported links to China’s military. Many of the newly targeted companies are subsidiaries and affiliates of major state-owned companies and other businesses named on the earlier blacklist.

The U.S. also is working on supply-chain issues intended to lessen the dependence on China, and on Tuesday the Senate approved a $250 billion bill boosting government spending on technology research and development amid rising competition from China and other nations.

Mr. Biden departed Wednesday for his first overseas trip as president and will meet with European and NATO leaders as well as a summit with Russian President

Vladimir Putin.

Part of his aim, officials said, will be to rally allies into taking on Beijing.

Social-Media Scrutiny

More WSJ coverage of Trump’s TikTok ban, selected by the editors.

Write to John D. McKinnon at and Alex Leary at

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

in Tech
Related Posts

Nvidia Posts Record Earnings on Videogaming, Cryptocurrency Demand

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

Nvidia Corp. NVDA 0.33% reported a record quarterly revenue and profit, propelled by demand for videogaming and cryptocurrency and despite...

Amazon Nears Deal to Buy Hollywood Studio MGM

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

MGM offices in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 18. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg News Updated May 24, 2021 2:40 pm ET...

TikTokers Filmed Inside a $5.299 Million California Listing. It Found a Buyer in Two Weeks.

July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

The first time real-estate agent Rochelle Atlas Maize saw Julie Stevens’s home in Santa Monica, Calif., she knew it would...

China Evergrande Scrapes Together More Cash From Tech Company Stake Sale

November 9, 2021

November 9, 2021

SINGAPORE— China Evergrande Group raised around $145 million in recent days by selling a chunk of its shares in a...

Tesla to Store China Data Locally in New Data Center

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

SHANGHAI— Tesla Inc. said all data generated from cars it sold in China will be stored in a new data...

Visa Buys Swedish Fintech Tink for More Than $2 Billion

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

Visa Inc. V -0.53% agreed to pay more than $2 billion for Tink, a Swedish startup whose digital services connect...

Stack Overflow Sold to Tech Giant Prosus for $1.8 Billion

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

Prosus PRX 0.54% NV said it struck a $1.8 billion deal to acquire Stack Overflow, an online community for software...

Uber, Lyft Sweeten Job Perks Amid Driver Shortage, Lofty Fares

July 2, 2021

July 2, 2021

A shortage of drivers in the U.S. is propelling prices for Uber and Lyft rides to record highs and pushing...

Apple’s Big Show May Not Be Enough

June 4, 2021

June 4, 2021

As Apple Inc. AAPL 1.10% looks to rally its base, the fate of the company’s lucrative ecosystem has never been...

Facebook Suspends Donald Trump for at Least Two Years

June 4, 2021

June 4, 2021

Facebook Inc. FB 1.33% said it is suspending Donald Trump’s accounts for two years, formalizing a long-term penalty for the...

Venmo to Charge Users for Selling Goods and Services

June 26, 2021

June 26, 2021

Venmo, the payments app owned by PayPal Holdings Inc., PYPL -1.23% will soon allow users to sell products and services...

How AI Is Taking Over Our Gadgets

June 26, 2021

June 26, 2021

If you think of AI as something futuristic and abstract, start thinking different. We’re now witnessing a turning point for...

Tesla Shareholder Panasonic Sells Stake for $3.6 Billion

June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021

TOKYO— Tesla Inc.’s TSLA 0.19% leading battery supplier is no longer a Tesla shareholder. Panasonic Corp. PCRFY 4.04% said Friday...

Chip Shortages Are Starting to Hit Consumers. Higher Prices Are Likely.

June 21, 2021

June 21, 2021

The global chip shortage is pushing up prices of items such as laptops and printers and is threatening to do...

For Startup Leaders, SPACs Have Lost Their Allure

May 23, 2021

May 23, 2021

Startup chief executives are turning a cold shoulder to SPACs. Skeptical CEOs say they are turning down offers from special-purpose...