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Donald Trump bans U.S. transactions with eight Chinese software applications

The Debrief Reporter

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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.

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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.

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 and the Biden transition team declined to comment.

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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Al Shabaab Suicide Bomber Kills Six At Somali Cafe In Baidoa

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Six civilians died and seven more were injured on Saturday when an Al-Shabaab suicide bomber blew himself up outside a cafe in Somalia, police and witnesses said.

The attack happened in the central town of Baidoa, 250 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu and police said the target was the regional governor, who was inside the cafe taking tea.

“A terrorist suicide bomber blew up himself at Suweys cafeteria and killed six people, he was targeting the governor Ali Wardheere but he survived the attack,” local police officer Mohamud Adan told AFP by phone.

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Uhuru contributes Ksh. 1 Million towards rugby icon Ayimba’s medical expenses

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IN SUMMARY:
– President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged Ksh. 1 million towards rugby legend Benjamin Ayimba’s medical expenses
– Senator Sakaja disclosed Uhuru’s contribution in a message posted on his Twitter account
– Kenya Rugby union had disclosed that Ayimba was critically ill
– Ayimba is a former Kenya Sevens and 15s captain, who was first appointed Shujaa Head coach in 2006

President Uhuru Kenyatta through Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja has contributed a sum of Ksh. 1 million towards the medical expenses of ailing rugby legend, Benjamin Ayimba.

On a Tweet posted on his Twitter handle, Senator Sakaja disclosed that the head of state had promised Ksh. 1 million that will go into Ayimba’s medical expenses.

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“Let’s keep at it #TurnUpforBenja. Thank you H.E Uhuru for the KES 1m. Kindly @RailaOdinga @WilliamsRuto @MusaliaMudavadi join in,” said Sakaja in the Tweet.

Kenya Rugby union had disclosed that Ayimba was critically ill and that his condition had drastically deteriorated. The union called on Kenyans to make their contributions via the Paybill number 8021673 with the name BENJAMIN OTIENO AYIMBA MEDICAL towards the rugby icon’s medical bills.

Ayimba is a former Kenya Sevens and 15s captain, who was first appointed Shujaa Head coach in 2006. He went on to guide Kenya to her first ever World Series Cup Final in Adelaide, Australia losing 26-7 to South Africa.

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In 2011, he left the job under controversial circumstances after he openly opposed the fielding of Kenya’s main players at the Safaricom Sevens.

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Kirinyaga: Middle-aged man found dead inside a lodging in Ndia

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IN SUMMARY:
– The middle-aged man was found dead inside a lodging in Ndia area, Kirinyaga
– Police are in pursuit of an unidentified woman who was in the company of the deceased
– His body was moved to Kutus Funeral home, Kutus

Police in Kirinyaga are investigating the death of a middle-aged man who was found dead inside a lodging in Ndia area.

According to the lodging caretaker, the man  booked a room at around 1pm in the company of unidentified woman who latter went missing.

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The incident was confirmed by agio town’s Nyumba Kumi Chairman, Daniel Kangangi who is also a brother to the caretaker.

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The caretaker is my brother. When he called me I informed officers based at Kagio Police station,”  said Kangangi.

Police are now in pursuit of the unidentified woman asking people in the hotel business to ensure that they take details of their customers.

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The body has been moved to the Kutus Funeral home Kutus pending further investigations.

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