The Trump administration in the United States used the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to issue orders last Thursday that effectively ban US transactions with the Chinese-owned social media apps TikTok and WeChat. This widely expected decision comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled a sweeping Clean Network initiative on data security and citizens’ privacy which calls for app stores like those run by Apple to bar “untrusted” Chinese apps and products, and which also seeks to prevent US data being stored by Chinese cloud-computing companies. Other countries are being urged to similarly decouple from Chinese information technology products and come “clean”, so to speak.
Next, expect restrictions on US-listed Chinese firms which are being compelled to follow US auditing rules or delist from US stock exchanges by 2022. The weight of pressure on Beijing is not restricted to the technology sector or access to capital, but also encompasses the political sphere. Last Friday, the US announced sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other Chinese officials. On Sunday, Health Secretary Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan for the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official in four decades. What is coming into view appears to be nothing short of a targeted attempt to axe a multifaceted relationship cautiously built up over close to five decades, and replace it with a durable animosity.