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Trump bars U.S. transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay

Popular Chinese Mobile Payment Apps Are Just the Tip of the Spear…

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Trump bars U.S. transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) –

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, the White House said, escalating tensions with Beijing two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The move, first reported by Reuters, is aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese software applications, which have large user bases and access to sensitive data, a senior administration official told Reuters.

The order argues that the United States must take “aggressive action” against developers of Chinese software applications to protect national security.

It tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive within 45 days and targets Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay as well.

The order also names CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate which is published by Alibaba Group subsidiary UCWeb, and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office.

“By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information,” the executive order states.

Such data collection “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information,” the document adds.

China will take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of companies in view of the Trump order, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Wednesday, adding that the U.S. was abusing its national power and unreasonably suppressing foreign companies.

In a statement late on Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Commerce said the U.S. ban goes against fair competition.

It also harms the interests of Chinese companies and their customers, including those in the United States, who had “widely welcomed” the apps as a contactless payment option during the pandemic, the ministry added.

Kingsoft said in a statement published by Chinese state media that it did not expect Trump’s order to substantially impact the company’s business in the short term. Ant, the Biden transition team and SHAREit declined to comment.

Alibaba, Tencent, CamScanner and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The order aims to cement Trump’s tough-on-China legacy before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Biden, a Democrat, who has said little about how he plans to address specific tech threats from China.

Biden could, however, revoke the order on the first day of his presidency, though his transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

The order will likely ratchet up tensions further between Washington and Beijing, which have been locked in a bitter dispute over the origins of the coronavirus and a Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong.

Despite the 45-day time line laid out by the order, the Commerce Department plans to act before Jan. 20 to identify prohibited transactions, another U.S. official told Reuters.

The directive mirrors Trump executive orders signed in August directing Commerce to block some U.S. transactions with WeChat and the Chinese-owned video app TikTok.

Had those orders gone into effect, they would have effectively banned the Chinese apps’ use in the United States and barred Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s app stores from offering them for download for new users.

The restrictions, however, were blocked by courts mainly on freedom of speech grounds. The White House is confident the new restrictions will stand up to judicial scrutiny, since applications like Alipay would struggle to bring a First Amendment case, the senior administration official told Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he supports Trump’s “commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Alipay has been in Washington’s cross hairs for months.

Reuters reported in November that the U.S. State Department had submitted a proposal to add Ant Group to a trade blacklist in order to deter U.S. investors from taking part in its lucrative initial public offering. But the Commerce Department, which oversees the blacklist, shelved the proposal after Alibaba Group Holding Inc President Michael Evans urged Ross to reject the bid.

Ant is China’s dominant mobile payments company, offering loans, payments, insurance and asset management services via mobile apps. It is 33% owned by Alibaba and controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, but is currently unavailable for American users.

Alipay was downloaded from Apple’s U.S. app store and Google Play 207,000 times in 2020, while image scanning app CamScanner and office suite app WPS Office were downloaded 4.4 million and 563,000 times respectively, according to research firm SensorTower.

Tuesday’s move is the latest in a raft of tough new curbs on Chinese companies.

The White House unveiled an executive order in November banning U.S. investment in alleged Chinese military companies including China’s top chipmaker SMIC and oil giant CNOOC. Last month, the Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese companies, including Chinese drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, to a trade blacklist.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Pei Li in Hong Kong and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Leslie Adler, Lincoln Feast and Giles Elgood

Business

BITCOIN GOES BOOM ^ ABOVE 50K 1st TIME E V E R.

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BITCOIN GOES BOOM ^ ABOVE 50K 1st TIME E V E R.

KEY POINTS

  • Bitcoin surged to an all-time high of more than $50,000 on Tuesday.
  • Large firms like Tesla, Mastercard and BNY Mellon have shown support for cryptocurrencies.
  • Many crypto investors believe the current bull run is different to a late 2017 bubble.

MORE… CNBC. 😉

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Economy

US Bans All Cotton Products and Tomatoes From China’s Xinjiang…

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US Bans All Cotton Products and Tomatoes From China’s Xinjiang…

Newsmax

The Trump administration announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from western China’s Xinjiang region Wednesday over allegations they are made with forced labor from detained Uighur Muslims.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the order applies to raw fibers, apparel, and textiles made from Xinjiang-grown cotton, as well as canned tomatoes, sauces, seeds, and other tomato products from the region, even if processed or manufactured in third countries.

The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), estimates about $9 billion of cotton products and $10 million worth of tomato products were imported from China into the United States in the past year.

DHS acting deputy secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli told a news briefing the order sends a message to importers: “DHS will not tolerate forced labor of any kind” and companies should eradicate Xinjiang products from their supply chains.

The move is the latest by the Trump administration in its final days to harden the U.S. position against Beijing, erecting economic penalties that would make it more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to ease U.S.-China tensions after he takes office Jan. 20.

In December, Congress passed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which assumes that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and therefore banned, unless CBP certifies otherwise.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his final days in office, has been weighing a determination as to whether forced labor in Xinjiang constitutes an “atrocity” or labeling it “genocide,” which analysts say would have significant implications for relations with China.

The region wide import ban follows a move to block cotton imports from China’s largest producer, the military-linked Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). Both will have a big impact on cotton production in Xinjiang, which produces as much as 20% of the world’s supply of the commodity.

Cotton futures prices fell slightly Wednesday, but traders attributed the drop to profit-taking after prices hit a two year high on a U.S. production outlook cut.

CBP officials said some 43 shipments of cotton-based products have been detained at U.S. entry ports since the XPCC ban was announced.

The U.S. apparel industry had previously criticized a broad ban as impossible to enforce. A coalition of apparel and retail groups said Tuesday in a joint statement that members were working to push forced labor from their supply chains but hoped to work with CBP “to make sure that enforcement is smart, transparent, targeted and effective.”

The United Nations cites what it says are credible reports that 1 million Muslims held in camps have been put to work in Xinjiang and faith leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, are taking place.

China denies mistreating Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement the forced labor issue was a “political lie” and vowed to take actions to safeguard the rights of its companies.

“The U.S. side resorts to pressure, sanctions and other means to suppress Xinjiang enterprises and undercut Xinjiang’s stability, development and prosperity,” the statement said.

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Economy

European Central Bank Calls for Global Regulations on Bitcoin…

President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde has called for global regulations on Bitcoin, labeling the cryptocurrency “reprehensible.”

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European Central Bank Calls for Global Regulations on Bitcoin…

ZERO HEDGE

President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde has called for global regulations on Bitcoin, labeling the cryptocurrency “reprehensible.”

Lagarde made the comments during a Reuters Next conference earlier today, during which she asserted that Bitcoin was not a currency.

“When you look at the most recent developments upward, and now the recent downward trend … for those who have assumed that it might turn into a currency, terribly sorry but this is an asset and it is a highly speculative asset,” she said.

The former head of the IMF, who was previously found guilty of financial negligence by a French court over a €403 million arbitration deal in favor of businessman Bernard Tapie, went on to accuse Bitcoin of being heavily embroiled in criminal activity.

“(Bitcoin) has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” said Lagarde.

The ECB head went on to call for Bitcoin to be regulated by financial authorities.

“There has to be regulation. This has to be applied and agreed upon […] at a global level because if there is an escape that escape will be used,” she said.

Globalists and technocrats have long begrudged Bitcoin because it is decentralized and therefore impossible to come under the control of centralized financial institutions. The cryptocurrency has also provided a refuge for dissidents who have been deplatformed by regular financial services and institutions over their politics.

Bitcoin recently soared to a record high above $41,000 dollars but has since fallen back to around $35,000 dollars.

After the cryptocurrency previously hit a record high of above $17,000 dollars at the end of 2017 it then sank bank to around $3,000, emphasizing the wild volatility of the asset.

However, numerous analysts are predicting that growing debt, record money printing and hyperinflation could see Bitcoin soar into the hundreds of thousands over the next year.

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