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Apple, Intel urge Trump to rethink WeChat ban

A ban could put American companies at a disadvantage against Chinese rivals.

Published onAugust 13, 2020

  • Apple, Intel, and other US companies reportedly urged Trump to rethink the WeChat ban.
  • They’re hoping the administration will narrow the order to allow business in China.
  • A ban could put American companies at a disadvantage against Chinese rivals.

President Trump’s threatened ban on TikTok may be getting most of the attention, but it’s the potential ban on WeChat that has US companies up in arms.

Wall Street Journal sources say Apple, Intel, and numerous non-tech companies (including Disney, Ford, and Walmart) have “raised concerns” about the scope of a ban on interactions with WeChat. The companies want the Trump administration to clarify the order and limit its scope so they aren’t completely barred from Tencent’s messaging app. They could accept a ban for the international version of WeChat while still being allowed to deal with the China edition.

The companies involved have either declined to comment or haven’t responded to requests.

Trump and others have argued that WeChat poses a security risk as China allegedly gathers “vast swaths” of data from users, potentially exposing Americans and Chinese expatriates in the US to Communist Party surveillance. Tencent has maintained that it safeguards privacy, although it can’t guarantee that in China.

Read more: WeChat accused of sharing personal data with China

A blanket ban on WeChat access could be devastating for American businesses in China, particularly Apple. The app is considered a form of social glue in China — it’s used for everything from official communication to shopping. If the US barred Apple from offering WeChat through the App Store, it would either have to find an alternative distribution option or risk selling iPhones in China without one of the country’s most important apps. That could easily hurt Apple’s overall business, with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo warning of a possible 30% drop in shipments.

Other companies could lose out if they’re forced to stop advertising or accepting payments in WeChat. There are also looming worries that companies might be cut off from other Tencent services.

And yes, this could affect you whether or not you use Apple devices. You could lose access to WeChat through the Google Play Store, making it difficult to communicate with friends and family who rely on it. It could also prevent any American tech companies (not just Apple rivals) from offering WeChat and selling well in China. There’s also the simple matter of encouraging healthy competition — a weaker Apple isn’t good for spurring Google to do better, and might draw further government attention to Google’s control of the mobile market.

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