Trump doesn’t rule out ban on Alibaba, other Chinese companies

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BEDMINSTER: President Donald Trump on Saturday said he could exert pressure on more Chinese companies, a day after he issued a new executive order targetting ByteDance ordering it to sell the US operations of its video-sharing app TikTok within 90 days.

Asked at a news conference whether there were other particular China-owned companies he was considering a ban on, such as Alibaba, Trump replied: “Well, we’re looking at other things, yes.”

Trump has been piling pressure on Chinese-owned companies, such as by vowing to ban short-video app TikTok from the United States. The United States ordered its Chinese owner ByteDance on Friday to divest the US operations of TikTok within 90 days, the latest effort to ramp up pressure over concerns about the safety of the personal data it handles.

Trump, who has made changing the US-China trade relationship a central theme of his presidency, has been sharply critical of China while also praising its purchases of agriculture products such as soybeans and corn as part of a trade agreement reached late last year.

Trump’s new executive order contends there is “credible evidence” leading him to believe that ByteDance’s take-over of Musical.ly “threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”

“As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” ByteDance said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”

Trump ordered that any sale of interest in Musical.ly in the US had to be signed off on by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which is to be given access to ByteDance books.

It also ordered that any saved user data be destroyed.

Trump last week made good on threats against WeChat and TikTok — two Chinese-owned apps with major audiences that US officials say pose a national security threat.

Through an earlier executive order he gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with the platforms, effectively setting a deadline for a potential, under-pressure sale of TikTok to Microsoft.

Trump has also called for the US government to be cut in on the deal, a stance slammed by critics who said it appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

Last week’s move also threw into doubt the US operations of WeChat’s parent firm, Tencent, a powerful player in the video game industry and one of the world´s richest companies.

China condemned the move as “arbitrary political manipulation”.

Trump has claimed TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.

TikTok — used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short-form videos on their cellphones — has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

WeChat is a messaging, social media and electronic payment platform and is reported to have more than a billion users, with many preferring it to email.

The latest US actions follow a protracted battle over Huawei, the Chinese network and smartphone giant accused by the Trump administration of being a tool for espionage.

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