Jon Bateman: These moves are clearly important, but they cannot be fully assessed before they take effect. The Trump administration has announced many sweeping, high-profile measures against Chinese technologies and companies, only to delay their enforcement repeatedly while dangling waivers and exemptions. This tactic is designed to gain leverage over China (and U.S. companies) as well as obtain political advantages. The Trump administration’s lack of a clearly stated strategy means the final rules could be broad or narrow, and many stakeholders are already seeking to shape them.
If the ban has teeth, it would be the Trump administration’s strongest move yet toward technological decoupling from China. TikTok and WeChat are not fundamentally different from other Chinese apps; they are simply more popular. Banning them would therefore suggest the Trump administration has zero tolerance for Chinese apps in the United States. Indeed, the relevant executive orders define the problem as “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China”—not just TikTok and WeChat.
China’s presence in the U.S. app market is limited, but the logic of these actions could extend well beyond apps. Americans’ personal information can be exposed to Chinese companies (and by extension, the Chinese government) through a variety of other means too, including consumer purchases, financial transactions, international travel, or data brokers and foreign intermediaries. A true policy of zero risk tolerance, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to favor, would cause a severe technological and economic split.
Lyu Jinghua: The recent actions taken by the Trump administration against TikTok and WeChat, following those against Huawei and other Chinese technology companies, are producing effects that go far beyond the claimed concerns of national security. In the short term, China will definitely suffer from the technology quarrel with the United States. Its companies will lose overseas markets and, more broadly, key elements for technology research and development.