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US plans further action against 'untrusted' Chinese apps, phone makers

The White House's latest planned measures against China could have huge implications for Chinese companies in the US.

Published onAugust 6, 2020

Xiaomi Mi 10 vs OnePlus 8 camera modules close up
  • The US government has outlined new measures to halt Chinese apps, services, and manufacturers in the country.
  • Measures include stripping US app stores of “untrusted” Chinese apps.
  • The measures could have potentially far-reaching consequences for Chinese developers and phone makers.

The White House has announced further plans to restrict the availability of Chinese technology and apps in the US, a move that could impact more than just HUAWEI and TikTok.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as per a BBC report, announced on Wednesday plans to curb the availability of “untrusted” Chinese apps and services from manufacturers that pose “significant threats” to American citizens’ personal information.

Among these plans, which include moves to safeguard undersea cables and the US’s mobile networks, the White House intends to strip “untrusted” apps from app stores within the US, and stop “untrusted” Chinese phone makers from preinstalling US-made apps. The measures could also forbid the use of US apps on Chinese phones, too.

Which apps and manufacturers are ‘untrusted’?

Tiktok on the Google Play Store.

“Untrusted” is a key word in Pompeo’s statement. The diplomat did not clarify which apps, services, or manufacturers are or would be considered untrusted, but the White House has already made moves against two significant Chinese firms it sees as security threats.

The US government hit Huawei last year with a trade ban, labeling the firm a security risk and forbidding it from using services and apps from the likes of Google or selling its technology to US carriers. HUAWEI also had its access to chipsets throttled which will likely affect the silicon used in its future devices.

US President Donald Trump has also threatened to ban TikTok unless the Bytedance-owned company sold its US operations to a US firm. Microsoft is currently the frontrunner to snag the short-video service’s operations before its September 15 ban is implemented.

But Pompeo’s remarks, particularly the vague and potentially broad definition of “untrusted,” could present a potentially huge problem for other Chinese OEMs. Chinese brands like OnePlus, TCL, and Lenovo all operate in the US. Furthermore, major brands like Oppo and Xiaomi are big players in global markets. Considering the US was willing to move against HUAWEI and TikTok, action against other Chinese companies wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question.

Restricting OEMs from accessing US-made apps would also render these devices largely useless. It would suggest the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Google’s services would be unavailable for those using an untrusted device within the country. Furthermore, the measures could theoretically lead to the US government blocking the preinstallation of Google apps and services on untrusted devices too.

The White House’s latest planned measures against China’s technology industry comes after growing negative sentiment towards the country. India recently moved to boycott apps from China, including TikTok and WeChat, following rising political tensions between the two nations. Other nations have also decided against HUAWEI technology for their 5G networks, including the UK.

Pompeo did not provide a timeline for the rollout of the measures or suggest how they would be enforced, but should the White House implement them it’s unlikely that China would sit idly by.

Next: China could move against Apple and Qualcomm in defense of HUAWEI

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