Biden lifts TikTok and WeChat bans but China is still in the spotlight

10 Jun 2021122 Views

Image: © Rafael Henrique/Stock.adobe.com

The administration will continue to probe Chinese apps for security threats, while the US and EU are expected to reveal a tech partnership.

On Wednesday (9 June), US president Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the attempted bans on TikTok and WeChat in a significant reversal of a Trump-era policy.

The previous orders signed by Donald Trump last year sought to ban TikTok and WeChat but were never fully implemented due to legal challenges.

This week’s development may be a relief for TikTok and We Chat, but that does not mean that the Biden administration has adopted a lighter touch on Chinese tech.

Instead of the ban, Biden has ordered the US Department of Commerce to investigate the apps and others for any security threats. A separate national security probe into TikTok is ongoing.

The White House said that the executive order was intended to ensure a secure internet while “protecting human rights online and offline”.

“The challenge that we’re addressing with this EO [executive order] is that certain countries, including China, do not share these commitments or values and are instead working to leverage digital technologies and American data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks,” it said.

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Chinese tech was a major bugbear for the previous administration. For much of 2020 TikTok was subject to concerns from the US over alleged ties to the Chinese government – which it denied. This almost led to the company’s US operations being sold to an American company to ensure it could continue to operate in the US.

That pressure wilted when Biden entered the White House but suspicions of Chinese tech remain high.

This week Biden makes his first trip to Europe as president, first with the G7 Summit in the UK followed by meetings with EU and NATO officials next week.

Politico reports that the EU and the US are preparing to announce a new tech alliance to curtail China.

The alliance is expected to address China’s dominance in digital trade and supply chains for technology through setting common standards and collective investments.

Uniting against China may help to ease tensions between the US and EU over the latter’s frequent targeting of American companies with competition investigations.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com