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China policy round-up: Trade deal implementation to be reviewed, foreign minister warns of ‘new Cold War’, Trump hits Wechat, Tiktok with executive orders

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By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
07 Aug 2020

In this round-up, China and the US will examine the progress made from the phase one trade deal, the Chinese foreign minister says a ‘new Cold War’ is not what Beijing wants, and a pair of executive orders by president Donald Trump will ban US transactions involving WeChat and TikTok’s parent companies.


China’s vice premier Liu He and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will hold talks on August 15 to review the implementation of the phase one Sino-US trade deal, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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China’s foreign minister Wang Yi addressed the escalating US-China tensions in an interview with state-owned Xinhua News on Thursday.

Wang warned of a new Cold War between the two countries but assured that Beijing wanted conversation.

“We reject any attempt to create a so-called ‘new Cold War’, because it contravenes the fundamental interests of the Chinese and American people and the global trend toward development and progress,” Wang said.

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Trump has issued executive orders that will ban transactions by any person or involving any property subject to the jurisdiction of the US with WeChat, Tencent’s social messaging and electronic payment application, and TikTok, a video-sharing mobile application owned by ByteDance.

The order did not define what constitutes these “transactions” but stated that the secretary of commerce will identify the transactions 45 days after the date of the order. The order came out on Thursday evening US time and will take effect 45 days after issuance.

“Like TikTok, WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” the order reads. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

Late last week, ByteDance was reportedly in talks with Microsoft to sell TikTok.

Zhang Yiming, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of ByteDance, sent employees an internal letter on Monday clarifying the situation. That was before the executive orders were signed.

“Although we have been emphasising that we are a privately owned company and we are willing to provide technical solutions to address the worries [of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States], Cfius is still convinced that ByteDance must sell its TikTok’s US business,” Zhang said in the letter. “We do not agree with this decision.”

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The US Department of State released a statement on Wednesday calling for a “clean network” to safeguard US assets.

In the statement, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the programme will form an “end-to-end communication path that does not use any transmission, control, computing, or storage equipment from untrusted IT vendors, such as Huawei and ZTE”.

The programme aims to build a coalition of “clean countries” that will only allow “trusted” vendors in their 5G networks. It will remove “untrusted” Chinese apps from US app stores.

Meanwhile, the programme will not allow sensitive information generated in the US to be stored in Chinese cloud systems. It will also prevent untrusted Chinese smartphone manufactures from pre-installing “trusted” apps on their app store.

Effectively, users of China-manufactured smartphones will not be able to download these “trusted” apps.

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Twitter announced on Thursday US time that it will add new labels to accounts of key government officials and state-affiliated media entities, their editors-in-chief and their senior staff.

Labels will only be applied to accounts from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Twitter said. The five countries are China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.

Twitter then tagged Caixin, a Beijing-based privately held media outlet, as state affiliated.

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India has banned 47 more Chinese apps in recent weeks, according to Reuters. Some of the apps are related to the 59 Chinese apps the south Asian country had already disallowed in June, though new ones by Xiaomi Corp and Baidu are now also on the list, the wire said, citing sources.

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China has named Zhang Gong as party secretary at the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), a market regulator under the State Council, replacing Xiao Yaqing.


By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
07 Aug 2020