China accuses US of ‘abuse of power’ after Trump ban on Alipay

China accuses US of 'abuse of power' after Trump ban on Alipay

Matthew Field

·2-min read
 
 
Jack Ma - AFP
Jack Ma – AFP

China has accused the White House of an “abuse of power” following an order to ban eight apps including Jack Ma’s Alipay.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order late on Tuesday days before he is due to step down, barring transactions by US companies with eight Chinese payments apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay.

The move has once again stoked tensions between the US and China just days before President elect Joe Biden is due to be inaugurated.

China’s foreign ministry accused the US of abusing its power and said it would take steps to protect the rights of its companies. China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency called the move a “wanton, self-dealing attempt to victimise foreign companies”.

The US has launched a wave of measures against Chinese companies, blacklisting Huawei and most recently adding Chinese chipmakers and drone companies to its “entity list” that bans US companies from doing most business with them.

Profile | Jack Ma
Profile | Jack Ma

The executive order against Alipay and WeChat Pay says that China’s access to smartphones and computers allows it to “access and capture vast swaths of information from users” that “would permit China to track the locations of federal employees” and “build dossiers of personal information”.

Mr Trump’s administration has also forced the sale of social media app TikTok’s US assets under threat of a total ban. It also issued a previous executive order against Chinese social media app WeChat, although that has yet to take effect.

 The ban on Alipay is another blow to Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire who once symbolised the growth of US/China business relations with the float of his online retail empire, Alibaba, on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.

Ma is reported to be keeping a low profile, after the attempted $34bn float of Ant Group, which owns Alipay, in China. The float was blocked by Chinese regulators after Ma made a series of remarks criticising China’s financial system.   Alipay operates a payments “superapp”, offering users the ability to make payments with scanned QR codes, send money and take out financial products. 

While the vast majority of Alipay’s revenues come from China, it also runs back-end payments technology for other companies and has deals with US companies such as Walgreens. It is also accepted in Chinese outlets of McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Ant Group declined to comment. Alipay did not respond to a request for comment.